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Old 05-01-2013, 06:42 PM   #211
Sherry E
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I definitely second the Catalina Island idea that summerw touched on above (in the Newport Beach section of all of the wonderful suggestions and tips), and you can find discounts on the Catalina Flyer out of Newport Beach. BUT I recommend skipping the Flyer (unless you are staying on the Island overnight) and instead driving to Long Beach (right near the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific) to catch a Catalina Express boat. The Express' departure times and arrival times are more frequent than the Flyer's, and will allow more flexibility.

Best of all, starting today (and going through April 30th of next year), you can get a free round-trip boat ride to Catalina on your birthday through the Express. That is a great value, as the boat fare normally runs over $70 per person. This is the 3rd year in a row that they are offering the free boat rides, and they let people claim the offer again even if they claimed the offer in the past. I took advantage of it last year and I'm doing it again this year! It would be a great day trip idea for you and Tracy!

If you Google Image "Catalina Express Free Birthday Boat Ride" or some similar combination of words, in the pictures that appear you may see photos from PrincessInOz (who posts here in this thread) and from me. I did that this morning (though I cannot recall the exact words I typed in) and up popped some of PiO's photos and mine in the results! (We both posted Catalina photos here on DISboards, so I think that's why they were lumped together in the search results!)

Anyway, summerw gave some great tips and ideas that would be of interest to anyone - even to people who have already lived in O.C. for years! I would bet that a lot of O.C and L.A. residents have never done a lot of the things on summerw's list!
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Old 05-02-2013, 01:49 AM   #212
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrincessInOz View Post
I actually like Seal Beach because of that strip of shops. It just seems really beachy to me.

Not sure if there are any seals in LA proper; but there will be seals at La Jolla.
We definitely liked Seal Beach (despite their lack of seals...). I think I've heard there are sometimes seals at the further south O.C. beaches like Laguna and Dana Point. We'll have to check there or see if we need to go all the way to the La Jolla/San Diego area.

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Hey, I really enjoyed your trip report so far. I'm glad you have persevered through OC's outrageously expensive real estate market to follow your dream. I grew up here but moved away a few years in my 20s just fed up with it all. I moved back to be around family a few years later. Honestly, I think I missed the weather almost as much as the family. I actually developed vertigo while we were living in Arizona so I know how you feel with the illness. One good thing about living in OC is the access to some of the best medical care out there.

I enjoyed your report so much I thought I'd return the favor with some of my favorite places in OC that I think you guys would like and aren't too pricey (if you haven't already heard about them). I hope I'm not being presumptuous, but I figure it's easy enough to ignore me if you aren't interested. :-) I'm enjoying your adventures so much I want to be sure you have fodder for many more. :-)
How awesome is this list?? I love that you shared all those great ideas, and now we can't wait to do a bunch of them!! I'm sure it will probably take us years to accomplish everything, but thank you so much for your "local" advice I'm glad that you're enjoying reading along and can relate to a lot of our experiences! Maybe we'll get to see you in the parks sometime!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sherry E View Post
I definitely second the Catalina Island idea that summerw touched on above (in the Newport Beach section of all of the wonderful suggestions and tips), and you can find discounts on the Catalina Flyer out of Newport Beach. BUT I recommend skipping the Flyer (unless you are staying on the Island overnight) and instead driving to Long Beach (right near the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific) to catch a Catalina Express boat. The Express' departure times and arrival times are more frequent than the Flyer's, and will allow more flexibility.

Best of all, starting today (and going through April 30th of next year), you can get a free round-trip boat ride to Catalina on your birthday through the Express. That is a great value, as the boat fare normally runs over $70 per person. This is the 3rd year in a row that they are offering the free boat rides, and they let people claim the offer again even if they claimed the offer in the past. I took advantage of it last year and I'm doing it again this year! It would be a great day trip idea for you and Tracy!

If you Google Image "Catalina Express Free Birthday Boat Ride" or some similar combination of words, in the pictures that appear you may see photos from PrincessInOz (who posts here in this thread) and from me. I did that this morning (though I cannot recall the exact words I typed in) and up popped some of PiO's photos and mine in the results! (We both posted Catalina photos here on DISboards, so I think that's why they were lumped together in the search results!)

Anyway, summerw gave some great tips and ideas that would be of interest to anyone - even to people who have already lived in O.C. for years! I would bet that a lot of O.C and L.A. residents have never done a lot of the things on summerw's list!
Thanks for the tips on Catalina Island!! That's definitely high up on our list of things to do (as are a bunch of the other things summerw recommended now). That's good advice about trying to do it for free on our birthdays. We'll have to see if we can make it work one of those days this year!
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Can We Move Here and Be Pancho’s Handlers? A Sept '11 Throwback Disneyland Trip Report
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Old 05-02-2013, 01:57 AM   #213
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Chapter 28
Give Thanks


The next day in our exploits, we decided to check out one of the main parks in Brea. One thing you have to get used to when living in Orange County is that there aren’t too many big stretches of green just spread out all over the place. Almost every inch of usable space has been built on. Luckily, there are still lots of great parks. You just have to drive a little out of your way to get to them.

Such was the case as we tried to find Craig Regional Park in Brea. We didn’t know much about it besides that it was a big chunk of green on our Google maps app, but we knew that it must be easy enough to get to. Unfortunately, finding the park was easy enough, but finding parking was the hard part. We ended up first at an “exit only” street, and then when we did find the entrance, we realized that you had to pay to park in the lot. We didn’t want to lay out several bucks to park our car at the park, so we were about to give up until we realized there was plenty of free street parking right outside the park’s confines.

Walking around, we realized just how big the park felt. It’s definitely a doozy to traverse because it’s extremely hilly. Finally reaching the other side from where we had come in, we discovered a nice little lake filled with ducks.



We weren’t sure if this duck had some sort of birth defect or whether his bouffant hair style was just a normal feature.



There were also two pelicans swimming around the lake and fishing. They would both dive in perfect unison every few seconds and then one or both would almost always come up swallowing a fish. We didn’t imagine there could be enough fish in this little lake for them to eat that much that often, but for that day, they seemed to have it made.



Fast forward a couple days to Thanksgiving morning. Tracy and I rolled out of bed to the alarm, grabbed our breakfast to go, brought it back up to the room, and turned on the TV. Of course, we needed to watch this:



The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! People often ask us if we ever went to see the parade in person while we were living in New York. The answer is no we did not because the whole experience seems dreadfully unpleasant. You have to show up at around 6:00am to get a decent spot even though the parade doesn’t start till 9:00. The temperatures at that time of year are usually right around the freezing mark and with the deathly New York wind chill, it feels terrible to be outside. We always dreamed of having a friend who happened to live in a building with a façade facing Central Park West from which we could watch the parade in heated comfort, but we never had rich enough of friends for that.

We did go watch the balloons being inflated on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving one year. This was actually quite miserable too. You are packed like sardines as you walk along the square block where the balloons are blown up. Picture the crowd leaving Disneyland on Christmas Day right after the fireworks—complete with strollers—and imagine walking in that for well over an hour while you hope to glimpse your favorite balloon through the nets that are tying it down. It was an experience I’m glad we had once, but we never had any desire to go back. The saddest thing was that the Mickey balloon was the only one that hadn’t been inflated yet when we walked by…

Anyway, back to the present. We watched the first couple hours of the parade, and then it was time to drive up north to Steve’s apartment in L.A. On the way, we stopped at McDonald’s for lunch and I got the call from Moustache, our future landlord, informing us that we got the condo—but you know that part of the story!

We made it quite easily all the way up to the Valley, passing straight through downtown L.A. but never encountering any real traffic. Steve later told us it was probably one of only two or three days a year when that was possible.

When we arrived, we saw that the cooking process of our turkey breast was well underway in the crock pot. Steve never cooks ANYTHING, so we were very proud of him for following our directions as to how to get that started. Tracy and I set to work making our pumpkin pie so that it would have plenty of time to cool. We don’t cook that many things from scratch, but our pumpkin pies are always quite good. Except in 2011. We usually just follow the recipe on the can, but at some point we copied that recipe into a recipes app on our iPad. We followed that recipe in New York on Thanksgiving Day 2011, and we served up our slices after we had recovered from dinner. We started eating our slices of pie, and it tasted… earthy. Neither of us could figure out what could have gone wrong because we’d made this recipe so many times before. Suddenly, Tracy asked, “Did we put in any sugar??” We checked the recipe app and, indeed, sugar had somehow been left off the list when we copied the recipe in. Neither of us had noticed while we made the pie. Let me tell you, pumpkin pie NEEDS sugar. We ended up tossing the pie, running to the one 24-hour grocery store within 20 blocks of us to replace the ingredients we were out of, and we made another pie WITH sugar. That one was good.

Anyway, back to 2012. While the pie was cooling and the turkey continued cooking, we sat around and caught up with Steve. We put the re-airing of the parade on the TV in the background and watched the first couple hours of it again even though we’d just seen it. Then, right when we would have gotten to the part of the parade that we had missed earlier, it was time to kick our cooking into high gear and start making our side dishes. So we saw the first 2/3 of the parade twice and never saw the last 1/3.

When everything was finished, our spread looked like this.



Here was my plate.



Everything was delicious! The turkey got a little drier than we’re used to, mostly because Steve couldn’t find a Butterball breast at any of his local grocery stores and that’s the moist brand. It was still a really great Thanksgiving dinner though, and we loved that we got to spend the holiday with family even though we had just left most of our family behind in CO. We headed back to the hotel happy with our day and really thankful for everything that had transpired that day (with getting our apartment at the forefront!).

The next couple days were mostly spent doing all the planning and preparation for moving as we celebrated the fact that the Fairfield Inn was only to be our home for a little while longer. Over the weekend, we made our Thanksgiving sandwiches with the leftovers we had brought back from Steve’s. Even though we were making them on paper plates and using the hotel room’s mini-microwave, we still made them like we are used to, complete with the Friends-inspired “moist-maker.”





That day, we also took advantage of the hotel’s pool and went for a swim. It was amazing being able to take a dip at the end of November. Welcome to SoCal!



You already know all about our exploits in moving, acquiring furniture, and unpacking over the next week or so, and before we knew it, November was on its way out. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced a more jam-packed month in my life, but everything worked out pretty well by the end of it!

Overview of November 2012

Random Photo of the Month



This sign was up at the entrance to the pool at the Fairfield Inn. We were thoroughly disturbed at first, but then found ourselves morbidly curious…

Movie We Watched in Theaters
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 (If you haven’t seen the final movie in the Twilight Saga, be warned that spoilers abound. This was probably only the third movie we saw in theaters in the whole of 2012 and is still the last time we’ve been to a movie theater to date. How about that ending? Neither of us knew what to make of it as the battle kept escalating. We both just thought “okay, they’ve thrown the book out the window and are doing whatever the heck they want.” Then when the pullback revealed that it was all just a vision of the future, the theater went nuts. People applauded, laughed, groaned. It was honestly a brilliant idea by the filmmakers, and I don’t know if the word “brilliant” has EVER been used to describe a Twilight movie…)

Number of States Visited
5 (That is, oddly, 10% of the entire United States right there!)

Favorite California Restaurant Visited
In-N-Out Burger (For this one, I didn’t include Disney restaurants in the competition. It was just great getting back to a state with In-N-Out because it’s oh so delicious)

Favorite Disney Snack
Red Velvet Cake Pop (This one was easy this month because we only really got two Disney snacks, and while the Marshmallow Wand was delicious, the Cake Pop beat it out)

Favorite Disney Meal
Holiday Sandwich from Earl of Sandwich (Again, not much of a competition this month, especially because Tracy didn’t love her Red Beans and Rice from Jazz Kitchen Express. The Holiday Sandwich is just SO GOOD)

Book I Read
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson (I thoroughly enjoyed this book having picked it up after liking At Home. It was a little tangential at times and a little too preachy at others, but on the whole I thought it was a great narrative. I learned a whole lot from this book just as I had from the other Bryson book, and I would definitely want to read another book of his sometime)

Favorite Guilty-Pleasure TV Show
Dancing with the Stars: All Stars (We have been on-again/off-again fans of Dancing with the Stars for a few years now, sometimes only watching once it gets down to the final few, sometimes watching the whole season, and sometimes not watching at all. We watched the entire All Stars season knowing it would be the best of the best, and it did not disappoint. Some of those competitors did absolutely phenomenal dances, and we had a lot of fun watching right up to the end)


Continued in Next Post
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Can We Move Here and Be Pancho’s Handlers? A Sept '11 Throwback Disneyland Trip Report
Duffy is Going to be ECSTATIC! a.k.a. Thank God She Was Jewish - May '12 WDW Trip Report
We Moved to Disneyland!! Now What…? Stories from New DLR Locals

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Old 05-02-2013, 02:09 AM   #214
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Happy Belated Thanksgiving. It looks like a good spread and your list of activities shows what a busy November it was.


That duck! I took this at the Royal Melbourne Show last year and was quite taken with its appearance.





It's a Crested Duck, which started out as a genetic mutation, and is now a 'normal' feature.
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Old 05-03-2013, 02:12 AM   #215
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Just had to tell you that I love the reference to the Friends "Moist Maker" - I like making them every Thanksgiving! We're also huge "Friends" fans and I'm pretty sure my DH can recite every memorable line from the show. So anytime someone gets unnecessarily dramatically mad about something, DH will look at me and say, "My Moist Maker?!" and we'll both laugh!
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Old 05-03-2013, 09:53 AM   #216
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Smile

Hi, Taylor!

Just wanted to say how much I've enjoyed reading all of your trip reports but this one is the ultimate adventure! I wish you and Tracy the best of luck!

My niece and I were supposed to be heading to Disneyland in just a few weeks but those plans fell through We will be going to Disney World instead and hope to make it to California in December.

Anxiously awaiting the next installment of your tale
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Old 05-04-2013, 11:01 AM   #217
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Thanks for posting the pictures of Orange. I had never been there in my life, until the last time we drove to Disneyland.

I am the trip navigator when we drive, (and a POOR one at that), but this past time, the Hubby assured me he didn't need ANY exit reminders.

Lo and behold, we found ourselves in Orange instead of at the Katella exit we usually take!!!

I was enchanted with the look and flavor of the old-timey down town area, and found myself wanting to linger in a bad way! Hubby wouldn't let us, but I have planned a side trip maybe in October or December.

How fun for you to be able to call that "Home"!
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Old 05-07-2013, 12:40 AM   #218
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrincessInOz View Post
Happy Belated Thanksgiving. It looks like a good spread and your list of activities shows what a busy November it was.


That duck! I took this at the Royal Melbourne Show last year and was quite taken with its appearance.





It's a Crested Duck, which started out as a genetic mutation, and is now a 'normal' feature.
Mystery solved!!! Thank you! Glad you got to meet a Crested Duck too. They are quite fancy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by hurleysweety View Post
Just had to tell you that I love the reference to the Friends "Moist Maker" - I like making them every Thanksgiving! We're also huge "Friends" fans and I'm pretty sure my DH can recite every memorable line from the show. So anytime someone gets unnecessarily dramatically mad about something, DH will look at me and say, "My Moist Maker?!" and we'll both laugh!
Glad you enjoyed the reference! We were glad that the Moist Maker was as delicious as it sounded when we finally tried doing it several years ago. Now we look forward to the sandwiches almost as much as Thanksgiving dinner.

Quote:
Originally Posted by disnic75 View Post
Hi, Taylor!

Just wanted to say how much I've enjoyed reading all of your trip reports but this one is the ultimate adventure! I wish you and Tracy the best of luck!

My niece and I were supposed to be heading to Disneyland in just a few weeks but those plans fell through We will be going to Disney World instead and hope to make it to California in December.

Anxiously awaiting the next installment of your tale
Thanks for reading!! I'm glad you're enjoying

Sorry to hear that your Disneyland plans fell through, but yay for going to WDW instead! Hope it's a great trip

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheshirecatty View Post
Thanks for posting the pictures of Orange. I had never been there in my life, until the last time we drove to Disneyland.

I am the trip navigator when we drive, (and a POOR one at that), but this past time, the Hubby assured me he didn't need ANY exit reminders.

Lo and behold, we found ourselves in Orange instead of at the Katella exit we usually take!!!

I was enchanted with the look and flavor of the old-timey down town area, and found myself wanting to linger in a bad way! Hubby wouldn't let us, but I have planned a side trip maybe in October or December.

How fun for you to be able to call that "Home"!
It's so easy to get lost around here because the streets in all the cities have the same names! If I had a dollar for every Chapman St in these parts... I'm glad you enjoyed your little detour into Orange. We definitely like it here. The circle area is a great place to hang out for a while and just enjoy walking around. Hope you get to check it out for longer next time you're here!
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Can We Move Here and Be Pancho’s Handlers? A Sept '11 Throwback Disneyland Trip Report
Duffy is Going to be ECSTATIC! a.k.a. Thank God She Was Jewish - May '12 WDW Trip Report
We Moved to Disneyland!! Now What…? Stories from New DLR Locals
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Old 05-07-2013, 12:43 AM   #219
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Chapter 29
Haul Out the Holly


On one of the first days of December (or maybe it was one of the last days of November), we finally got the living room clear enough that we were able to put up our Christmas tree.





While not religious, Tracy and I are HUGE fans of Christmas. I just love the feelings of joy that the whole holiday season brings. We also love Christmas music, so this began the span of over a month during which our Christmas playlist was constantly playing on Spotify around the house.





Every year Tracy and I buy a new bear-themed ornament. This year, we had bought a Duffy ornament at World of Disney in Walt Disney World, and he was the first one to adorn the tree.



We have a lot of ornaments and have basically outgrown our 4-foot tree. Here’s the final product.



We also hung our stockings by the door to complete our interior decorations.





Our decorating complete, it was time to head to Downtown Disney and see how their decorations were coming along.



Seemingly overnight, several new decorations had sprung up. First there was this Holiday Village.







Of course, other areas of Downtown Disney were pretty much unchanged.



We liked these fake birds of paradise in one of the planters on the light poles.



We went into Build-a-Bear and found this Baby Bjorn for a teddy bear. We’ve always joked about how we need one of these to bring Duffy everywhere with us, so the fact that it exists is just ridiculous!



We put it off till later to decide if we wanted to buy it, and we never did end up getting it…



Now it was time to check out the granddaddy of all Christmas trees, which we had read on Twitter had just been erected at the Grand Californian. We walked in to see it towering.



The whole lobby had been adorned since our last visit.





While we just popped in on that day, it was very palpably the calm before the storm. There was almost no one in the lobby, but the start of the Christmas rush was just around the corner. The next time we headed over there, it would be chock full of people.

Continued in Next Post
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1987 - WDW Visit in the Womb * 1990 - First WDW Visit * 1993 - First DLR Visit * March 1996 - Family Reunion at Treehouse Villas * March 1999 - Family Vacation at Treehouse Villas * March 2005 - One Day at MK with Friends * May 2008 - First Visit with then girlfriend (now wife) at POP * June 2010 - Disneymoon at Best Western LBV * Sept 2011 - Return to Disneyland at PP * May 2012 - Grand Prize WDW Radio Trip at POR Royal Room * November 2012 - Move to CA to become DLR locals!

Can We Move Here and Be Pancho’s Handlers? A Sept '11 Throwback Disneyland Trip Report
Duffy is Going to be ECSTATIC! a.k.a. Thank God She Was Jewish - May '12 WDW Trip Report
We Moved to Disneyland!! Now What…? Stories from New DLR Locals

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Old 05-07-2013, 01:15 AM   #220
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I love the tree in your living room, which is looking so cosy! Seems like you've really settled into the SoCal OC lifestyle there.

You didn't get that baby Bjorn for Duffy??? Really?? I think you and Tracy need to go get one.....eventually.

Nice pictures of GC lobby and christmas decorations.
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Old 05-07-2013, 05:35 AM   #221
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Beautiful Tree! And what a lovely way to get into the Christmas spirit by visiting Downtown Disney.

I have to agree with PIO, so surprised that you didn't rush to buy Duffy his own baby Bjorn!

Thank you for your continued musings ... looking forward to the next installment.
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Old 05-07-2013, 09:08 PM   #222
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Love the Christmas pics, especially as we get to see it this year! BTW, I enjoyed Bill Bryson's "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" much more than "Walk in the Woods" so you might try that one. It's very funny.
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Old 05-08-2013, 03:23 AM   #223
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Anytime, about the list. I haven't done some of those things in years. It made me nostalgic to type it up.

That bjorn is hilarious! Oh Disney. We'll definitely keep a look out for you in the parks. We don't go as much during the summer. Besides the blackout days, I grew up here so I'm a total whiner when the temperature isn't between 60 and 78. :-) Maybe you've noticed from the "Stormwatch" warnings when it's sprinkling out that I'm not alone in my intolerance for real weather.
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Old 05-10-2013, 01:04 AM   #224
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrincessInOz View Post
I love the tree in your living room, which is looking so cosy! Seems like you've really settled into the SoCal OC lifestyle there.

You didn't get that baby Bjorn for Duffy??? Really?? I think you and Tracy need to go get one.....eventually.

Nice pictures of GC lobby and christmas decorations.
Glad you liked our tree! I miss having it in the corner...

I can't believe we didn't get the Baby Bjorn either. Our reasoning was that it was very much Christmas themed and we wanted one that would be in style year-round. We hoped after Christmas they would come out with a Valentine's Day model or something, but they never did. Now we'll have to buy it this coming Christmas...

Glad you like the pix of the GC. Prepare for an onslaught of more in an upcoming update!

Quote:
Originally Posted by AussieDisneyNut View Post
Beautiful Tree! And what a lovely way to get into the Christmas spirit by visiting Downtown Disney.

I have to agree with PIO, so surprised that you didn't rush to buy Duffy his own baby Bjorn!

Thank you for your continued musings ... looking forward to the next installment.
It was a nice little tree, but one of these years we'll need to upgrade to a full-sized one. We're simply out of space for our ornaments.

See my comment to PiO above about the Baby Bjorn. It's not that we didn't WANT to get it...

I'm glad you continue to enjoy my ramblings Hopefully that will keep being true!

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Originally Posted by Pesky View Post
Love the Christmas pics, especially as we get to see it this year! BTW, I enjoyed Bill Bryson's "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" much more than "Walk in the Woods" so you might try that one. It's very funny.
Interesting about the other Bryson book. I've checked that one out from the Kindle library before and let it expire before reading it. Looks like I'll need to put it on hold again... Glad you're enjoying the pix of the Christmas decorations. Many more still to come!

Quote:
Originally Posted by summerw View Post
Anytime, about the list. I haven't done some of those things in years. It made me nostalgic to type it up.

That bjorn is hilarious! Oh Disney. We'll definitely keep a look out for you in the parks. We don't go as much during the summer. Besides the blackout days, I grew up here so I'm a total whiner when the temperature isn't between 60 and 78. :-) Maybe you've noticed from the "Stormwatch" warnings when it's sprinkling out that I'm not alone in my intolerance for real weather.
Glad you enjoyed writing the list! I'm sure we'll enjoy starting to tackle it. We wanted to hit up the Irvine community sale last weekend, but by the time we checked what time it started, it was already over. We're just NOT morning people on the weekends, and apparently it ended at noon.

We thought the Bjorn was quite funny too. Next time we see one, we're buying it!

I definitely understand about not wanting to go to Disney when it's too hot (or rainy). We've avoided some days for those reasons. We're quickly getting into the mindset that colder than 60 degrees is freezing. We'll be in trouble next time we visit CO during the winter...
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1987 - WDW Visit in the Womb * 1990 - First WDW Visit * 1993 - First DLR Visit * March 1996 - Family Reunion at Treehouse Villas * March 1999 - Family Vacation at Treehouse Villas * March 2005 - One Day at MK with Friends * May 2008 - First Visit with then girlfriend (now wife) at POP * June 2010 - Disneymoon at Best Western LBV * Sept 2011 - Return to Disneyland at PP * May 2012 - Grand Prize WDW Radio Trip at POR Royal Room * November 2012 - Move to CA to become DLR locals!

Can We Move Here and Be Pancho’s Handlers? A Sept '11 Throwback Disneyland Trip Report
Duffy is Going to be ECSTATIC! a.k.a. Thank God She Was Jewish - May '12 WDW Trip Report
We Moved to Disneyland!! Now What…? Stories from New DLR Locals
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Old 05-10-2013, 01:11 AM   #225
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Chapter 30
I Feel It in My Fingers


December started to pass, and we started to settle in more and more to our new home. We enjoyed exploring Orange, walking in the park by our apartment, and meandering up to Orange Circle occasionally. We also made ourselves at home in terms of figuring out the closest locations of all of the stores and restaurants that we frequent.

The first weekend in December, there was to be a tree lighting ceremony in Orange Circle. They promised music provided by some of the local church choirs as well as a telling of the Christmas story before they lit the tree (which was already being lit every night, but I guess this would make it “official”).



The day of the events (which was incidentally the same day as Tracy’s Fantasmic! audition) was cloudy and dreary. It kept threatening rain but then just misting instead. There was a notice on the City of Orange website that the tree lighting would be canceled in the event of rain, but they finally declared it would happen as planned when it still hadn’t rained by mid-afternoon.

Tracy and I bundled up and headed over to the Circle when the festivities were about to begin. More than just a concert, this was an entire street fair. Complete with carnival games for the kids, booths selling food, and local businesses having representation. Tracy and I bought burritos from one of the stands that were there in support of a local school or church, and we enjoyed a very authentic Mexican dinner.

The entire event made it feel like we were part of a small town. While Orange has a population of over 100,000 and is actually quite medium-sized, the setup just seemed like something they would have in, say, Mayberry. Tracy and I joked that we felt like we had moved to Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow. As we walked around, people near us would strike up conversations with each other and find out that they went to the same high schools, knew each other’s siblings, etc. It was a fun atmosphere to be in.

When it was time for the actual celebration to start, people began to sit down in the hundreds of chairs that had been put into the square overnight. Since the seats were all wet, people were clamoring to find the driest ones possible. Tracy and I thought we had lucked out finding seats that were only damp, but I still found myself with a wet rear end when I sat down.

The concert portion of the evening began with local kids’ choirs and a community orchestra. The choir was what you would expect of elementary-aged kids, so it was fun/funny to watch. The orchestra was quite good though. Most importantly, everything was lit up and felt very festive.



After the first groups were done with their performances, someone from the local government came onstage, welcomed everyone, and counted down to the lighting of the tree. Contributing to the hilarious small town feel, the councilwoman warned that because of the day’s wet weather, no one was sure whether the tree would actually light successfully, so when it did, everyone cheered extra loudly.



At this point, Tracy and I vacated our damp seats to go check out the tree and pose with it.



We were starting to get a little too cold from our wet derrieres, so we decided to head back to the car. The festivities were still going strong, however, with a narrator reading the Christmas story and a good choir singing in the breaks. I imagine it was a lot like the Candlelight Processional at the Disney parks (which we will hopefully get to see this year!). As we walked away, the music was still echoing through the little downtown, and we really felt like a part of the community for the evening.

Back home, we finally caved in and bought some furniture for our balcony so that we could enjoy being outside in the still-fantastic weather. It’s been interesting to adjust to the “seasons” here because contrary to popular belief, they DO exist to some extent. As December passed, the temperatures definitely did start to drop. The highs were more frequently only in the 60s, which sounds absurd to call “cold” to anyone living in a place with real winters, but did feel a little chilly as compared to the usual 70s. We even had to wear jackets occasionally!

The patio furniture we found at Lowes were the cheapest chairs and side table we came across, but they were functional and relatively comfortable, so they would do the job. We quickly got accustomed to sitting outside whenever possible.





In addition, we also discovered that many of the residents in our complex had hummingbird feeders to attract the fascinating little critters. We decided to make the investment (a whopping $5) and see if we couldn’t attract some hummers of our own.



While most of our neighbors seem to have hummingbirds who are content to live amongst each other peacefully, our feeder was immediately claimed by a little territorial bugger who chased off any other birds who tried to come around. We named him Larry and would always begrudgingly greet him when he came around, knowing that he was scaring away any other hummer friends we might be making. It’s extremely difficult to get a good picture of a hummingbird, but here was my best effort to photograph Larry.



In a way, he reminded us of Stupey Doodle. He was adorable and filled the void for a pet that we were looking for, but he was just a little mean-spirited and didn’t want to return our affections. Instead, he just screams at us whenever we’re outside and encroaching on HIS feeder.

Inside, we had a FUN time (read the sarcasm) trying to figure out how to use our ancient oven. We tried baking cookies and found that they burnt to a crisp because the temperature knob is off by about 50 degrees. Once we bought an oven thermometer and discovered the discrepancy, we were able to make some better cookies.



One night in the middle of the month, Tracy and I played a game of Disney Sorry! on the floor in front of the tree.



I played as green and truly had the dream team (Dumbo, Bambi, Pooh, and Simba). Obviously I won with that crew.



In addition to our lights inside, we decided to make our balcony festive and decorate with some lights out there.



There was a decoration competition among the complex, and our measly lights looked like child’s play compared to some of the lengths our neighbors went to. I wouldn’t have expected such elaborate displays in a condo complex, but people still managed to do everything you would see in a neighborhood of houses including the giant inflatable lawn ornaments. We vowed that maybe next Christmas we would be able to do something a little more elaborate.

We continued to get a little more creative with our desserts at home since we couldn’t afford to get Disney snacks as often as we’d like. We made peanut butter cookies and some delicious crepes.





We also began watching our yearly lineup of Christmas movies. Tracy and I love Christmas movies. They are probably some of our favorite movies period. I’ll reveal our whole list a little later, but one of the ones that got our season rolling was A Charlie Brown Christmas. We just love the dancing scene.



As Christmas approached, Tracy put on these candy-striped nail stickers that she had gotten for free from one of the deal sites the previous year but which hadn’t arrived in time for Christmas. They were fun but they didn’t last too long…



We decided to make some Christmas cookies with the holiday on the horizon. I swear we’re not gluttons; all the desserts from this post were spread out over a month or so.



Tracy’s uncle had given us one of his old Mickey cookie cutters while we were in CO, so those had to be the primary cookies. We also bought two other cookie cutters at Michaels.





After the cookies were baked, it was time to decorate.







This one was my prized creation.



The cookies were all delicious and a great dessert to add to our holiday season!

Continued in Next Post
__________________
1987 - WDW Visit in the Womb * 1990 - First WDW Visit * 1993 - First DLR Visit * March 1996 - Family Reunion at Treehouse Villas * March 1999 - Family Vacation at Treehouse Villas * March 2005 - One Day at MK with Friends * May 2008 - First Visit with then girlfriend (now wife) at POP * June 2010 - Disneymoon at Best Western LBV * Sept 2011 - Return to Disneyland at PP * May 2012 - Grand Prize WDW Radio Trip at POR Royal Room * November 2012 - Move to CA to become DLR locals!

Can We Move Here and Be Pancho’s Handlers? A Sept '11 Throwback Disneyland Trip Report
Duffy is Going to be ECSTATIC! a.k.a. Thank God She Was Jewish - May '12 WDW Trip Report
We Moved to Disneyland!! Now What…? Stories from New DLR Locals

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