The Twelve Days of... Halloween?

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Is it just me, or is Halloween spiraling out of control? I feel like this year we had weeks and week of Halloween --- perhaps this has been going on for some time, and it's just that my kids are older now and can participate in all the Halloween goodness that I'm noticing it? 

In the month of October we attended no less than SIX Halloween dress-up occasions: 

Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village

(Witch costumes)

School Trunk-or-Treat

(Pirate costumes)

Downtown trick-or-treating 

(V: Aurora, E: Sofia the First)

Town Halloween Hoot

(V: Aurora, E: Sofia the First)

School Halloween Party

(V: Anna Coronation, E: Jessie)

Neighborhood Trick-or-treating

(improvised warm outfits)

We also did Disney on Ice: though not technically Halloween, it involved dress up so I think it should sort of count... There were a whole bunch of other local events (like church Trunk-or-Treat and Mall trick-or-treating and a friend's Halloween party) that we were just too tired to attend.... that is to say, the list could have been much longer!

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When I was a kid Halloween was confined to Oct 31st. It's like Halloween realized it needed to step up its game if it was going to compete with Christmas. As for Thanksgiving - what Thanksgiving? It's being squeezed right out! 

Don't get me wrong, I love Halloween. Its my favorite holiday, what with all the costumes and dressing up. But sometimes too much of a good thing is a bad thing, you know? By Oct 31 I was pretty Halloween'ed out. And, it was snowing. 

That's right: SNOWING! 

I don't like sending the girls out in costumes with coats over them (because what's the point of dressing up if no one can see what's under your winter coat?) so we quickly pieced together costumes for warmth. All options of princess costumes pretty much went out the window with the first snowflake (snow, people!)  Fortunately, Eva still fit into Viola's first Halloween costume: a padded, super warm spider outfit. And Viola pieced together a fun orange-and-black ensemble on top of lots of layers, using bits and pieces from last year's Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party components.

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The girls made it up and down both sides of our street, but didn't feel up to crossing onto the next block. They wrapped up early and spent the rest of the evening handing out candy to the brave (mostly older) kids who were still out risking frostbite.

All-in-all, kinda anticlimactic given all the Halloween lead-up activities, don't you think?

On the bright side, Halloween brought great deals on Princess costumes! Ebay is the best for picking up used costumes right before and after Halloween! I was even able to snag a Limited Edition Snow White costume (which I've been coveting forever!--- review to follow!) and some nice costumes on post-Halloween discount from the DisneyStore.com for our upcoming trip in March! :-) 

I hope all your Halloweens were wonderful (and warmer than ours!)

Trunk-or-Treat (2014)

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On Wednesday of last week, my coworker mentioned an upcoming Trunk-or-Treat that she was taking her kids to. "Whats a trunk-or treat?" I asked. "You take the kids to a parking lot and folks hand out candy from their cars." she answered.  "Oh."

Then, Thursday afternoon my good friend called to ask whether she could borrow the Frozen decorations we had leftover from last April's Frozen-themed birthday party.  "Sure!" I said, "For what?"  To which she replied, "The kids' school Trunk-or-Treat". 

So, I googled Trunk-or-Treat and can I just say... OMG! People turn their trunks into spooky/fun dioramas and the kids go car-to-car for candy! Adorable! So I pulled my husband over to show him the cute pictures and he mentioned the our daughters' school was having a Trunk-or-Treat on Friday. 24hrs is totally enough time to put together a Trunk-or-Tream plan, right? Totally! 


Pirate Trunk

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We decided to go with a Pirate themed trunk... primarily because I'd just agreed to loan all our Frozen stuff to our friends. ;-)  

The decorations are from our 2013 Pirate & Princesses birthday party, with the addition of a Halloween store skeleton, which I can definitely put to use since we don't have a lot of Halloween decorations (despite Halloween being my favorite holiday!) I had wanted to take the raft that we made as a table for the pirate party, but it wouldn't fit in our car (we really need a friend with a pick up truck!) Regardless, I think we did a pretty good job, considering that 24hrs earlier I had no idea what a Trunk-or-Treat was, right? 

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I didn't really know what to expect. When I brought out the gold chest from the basement my husband teased that ours was going to be overboard, but that wasn't the case at all! I was really blown away by the variety and creativity of the other cars. The kids were free to run around 'unsupervised' in the closed parking lot. It was so much fun! 

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We played our "Jake and the Neverland Pirates" album, and handed out gold chocolate coins to all the kids dressed a pirates and twirlers to everyone else. My husband and I enjoyed practicing our Pirate puns while the girls felt so grown up to be on their own with their friends. Evangeline's favorite part by far was the "hot coffee"--- she thought she was hot stuff with a 'cup like Mommy's'.  (No worries, 'hot coffee' served by an elementary school is actually just tepid hot cocoa).  

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(Oh, and PS, the Pirate decorations only got creepier as the night went on!) :-)

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All-in-all, we had a ton of fun and I can't wait until next year to do it again! 


Frozen Trunk

Here is the trunk our friends put together, as photographed by my friend Adam who is an insanely talented local photographer. (If you're local to the Michigan area, you might check out his services over at Breakfast With Adam).  It was their first time doing a Trunk-or-Treat too, and reported that they also had a blast! They said the kids were lining up to get their pictures taken with the Elsa/Anna cardboard cut out and the homemade Marshmallow was a big hit, too. 

I saved their trunk for the end because it seriously puts our to shame. :-)

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Looking for more inspiration? Check out these awesome trunks made by the other parents! They're amazing!!! Going to have to step up my creativity for next year! 

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Making Fireworks Work for an Introvert

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Let me start by saying that I hate the Fourth of July. Why? In a word: fireworks. I really don't care for them. And yes, I realize that my fireworks crumudgeonliness makes me like the Scrooge McDuck of Patriotism or something. It was all well and good when I could stay in and cover my head with pillows, but now that I have kids I have to partake in the whole experience for their sakes. Sigh.

Nothing particularly bad has ever happened to me on the Fourth of July, so why do I hate fireworks, you ask? So many, many reasons:  It's always too hot | It's always too cold | The bugs bite you | The grass is wet | The people are annoying | The kids don't sit quietly on their blankets | The kids run over your blanket | They never start on time | They're loud | They're too close to the ground | Someone is going to get blown up | It takes a year for them to be over | It takes five years to get out of the parking lot and home | The yahoo blowing up fireworks in their backyard all night, driving the neighborhood dogs crazy | The yahoo blowing up fireworks in their backyard who could set their neighbor's house on fire | The fireworks that touch the ground that could set people on fire.....

I could go on, but I'll stop there. In short, I'm not a fan of fire or explosions or danger in general, and this makes me highly skeptical of fireworks (and Michael Bay films).

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I have never been outside on a lovely, quiet night and thought to myself "You know what this night needs? MORE EXPLOSIONS!" (unless we're talking about Stargate and my favorite quote: "Make it BIGGER! More Explosions! Explosions make for great trailers!"--- yes, I am a geek for some things other  than Disney, you know!)

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My husband tried to make this year's fireworks adventure as painless as possible for me. (Because I'm really not to the level yet where I'm exactly a good sport about having to go, per se.)  Our town's fireworks display is disproportionately large and well-funded and so it attracts lots of folks from all over, and parking is a nightmare. After some map recon, he found us a spot on a side street that was a reasonable walking distance to the golf course but also straight access out of the sub in the opposite direction that most people take. 

It was a sound plan. Except for a bunch of yahoos who parked in the wrong direction on a street not wide enough for passing side-by-side. By the time we got to our car, there were about 40 cars lined up to go East and 5 cars lined up to go West and two cars facing each other nose-to-nose and everyone just sitting there. Just sitting there!!  Like it was going to somehow magically resolve itself?? My husband sent me out to direct traffic because otherwise who knows how long we were all just going to sit around looking at each other. Fortunately, I keep my NY accent in my back pocket for just such an occasion, and was able to convince the 5 cars facing West to turn around and go out the opposite direction, all while keeping more people from turning left down the street where no one was moving vs. turning right where it was wide open all the way to the main road. Seriously, people.

(For those who've said my "Princess Rants" blog isn't very rant-y... there you go. I hope you're happy now.)


I tend to be a bit of an introvert, so I think that's probably at the crux of my problem with fireworks. So, in the interest of cheering myself up on Fourth of July weekend, I thought I'd take  a moment to reminisce about fireworks I do like--- and that's the ones at Disney World, of course! What's not to love? They're beautiful, they're predictable, they start on time, they're succinct, and because we stay on property there's no parking lot gridlock to contend with, we just hop the monorail back to the hotel!

That's not to say that the fireworks at Disney World don't have crowds--- they do. And the crowds at that time of night can be sort of aggressive because it's late and people are tired and grumpy. We've been jostled, gotten separated/lost in the crowd, had adults push in front of the little ones, and all sorts of less-than-optimal experiences trying to watch the fireworks from what everyone says is the ideal spot (right in front of Cinderella's Castle).

In contrast to how I feel, my mom loves fireworks. So, on our most recent trip to Disney World (2013), I set out to look for alternatives so we would both be able to enjoy ourselves... and now that we've experienced the fireworks from elsewhere I can't imagine we'll ever watch them from in front of the castle again. 

Here are some alternative viewing locations if you, like me, struggle with fireworks & fireworks crowds: 


ANYWHERE BEHIND CINDERELLA'S CASTLE

We ended up behind the castle during the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, right outside of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Half our group was actually on the ride when the fireworks started going off and they said it was a stunning and surreal experience. I don't know how you could time that to do it on purpose, it's one of those pixie dust moments that just happens, I think. As for those of us waiting outside the cue, we got a great view of the fireworks. They're a little more dispersed from that angle (because they're measured to frame the castle) but they were lovely and the best part was there was no crowd jostling around us!

Fireworks are hard to photograph, OK?!

Fireworks are hard to photograph, OK?!

For scale... 

For scale... 


THE CALIFORNIA GRILL / THE CALIFORNIA GRILL'S VIEWING DECK

The California Grill is the Signature restaurant on the roof of the Contemporary Resort. We had heard that this was an excellent spot to watch fireworks and so we booked a late dinner on the arrival night of the trip. If you dine at the California Grill at any time, you can bring your receipt back during fireworks for access to the restaurant's viewing balcony, a great place to watch the fireworks! But, better by far in my opinion, is if you can manage to time dinner such that you're eating dessert as the fireworks start. The restaurant pipes in the music that accompanies the show and you have a great view of the castle and the fireworks display through the big glass windows. We watched the Happy HalloWishes show and it was both beautiful and memorable! Be aware that dining at the California Grill costs 2 table-services if you are using the dining plan. Totally worth it, IMO, the food is outstanding!

Sunset on the California Grill's viewing balcony.

Sunset on the California Grill's viewing balcony.

The girls' candy sushi dessert! (I  might  have stolen some!)

The girls' candy sushi dessert! (I might have stolen some!)

This was the apple dessert sampler I ate: soooo good!

This was the apple dessert sampler I ate: soooo good!

The view of the fireworks from our table!

The view of the fireworks from our table!

This video was from my seat at the table inside the restaurant, not outside on the observation deck. I think that there are speakers that play the music out on the deck, too, though! Make sure you watch to the end (or ffwd) because the finale is pretty awesome!


PIRATES AND PALS FIREWORKS VOYAGE

On our last trip (2013), we bought tickets for the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage on a whim because we were staying at Bay Lake Towers and it sails from the Contemporary Resort. I'm glad we did because we had a ton of fun! You start in one of the conference rooms which is outfitted with a buffet of snacks and enjoy a private photo op session with Captain Hook and Mr. Smee. Then, you proceed down to the Contemporary's docks where you board a pontoon boat. The tour guides keep everyone entertained with trivia and stand up comedy as you drift around the lake prior to the fireworks starting. The fireworks themselves are beautiful, reflected off the water. They pipe the accompanying music onto the boat just like they do at the California Grill. As an added bonus, when you return to dock, you get to enjoy another photo op with Peter Pan! (and, I've heard, sometimes Tinkerbell, too!) It's a little pricey ($35 kids, $60 adults) but a great low-key way to enjoy the fireworks! Plus, everyone gets a reason to dress up like pirates! We're definitely doing this again on our next trip!

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Because we went for Halloween in 201, dressing up was a big part of our trip, and we all had eccentric pirate t-shirts and accoutrements to wear, though they give you pirate bandanas for the boat ride. Eva had gone to the Pirate League earlier that day, which is another story in itself!  I looked through my files and apparently didn't take any video on the boat ride itself, which is too bad because it was a ton of fun! But I did find some footage of the party and the one-on-one time with Peter Pan afterward.

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DISNEY WORLD RESORTS 

You are able to see the fireworks from many resort locations, as far away at the Caribbean Beach Resorts. We have watched them many times from the tranquil walking paths and, though a little distant, they're lovely. I'm not an expert on all the locations where the fireworks are visible, but here is a list compiled by many Disney Fans that I found while searching! It lists the Bus Depot, the Contemporary, the Grand Floridian, Ft. Wilderness, and Polynesian, though they seem to have missed Caribbean Beach! I would guess you can probably see the EPCOT fireworks from any of the Boardwalk Hotels as well. While we're at it, and going along with #3, I know you can rent boats from the resorts, maybe you can rent a boat and watch from the lake as well!?


TOMORROWLAND TERRACE FIREWORKS DESSERT PARTY, or so I've heard...

So, this one we haven't done yet but I'm excited enough about it that I thought I'd share it with you. In researching for our upcoming trip I stumbled upon the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party. A fireworks viewing location away from the jostling crowds? Check. A fancy dessert buffet, too?? Count me in!! Dessert is hands down my favorite meal of the day!  

Have you ever watched fireworks from the Tomorrowland Terrace? Is it as great as it looks? Or do you have a favorite secret fireworks viewing location that I've missed? Please share in the comments below! :-)  


Happy Fourth of July weekend everyone! Please remember to be safe!

And, try not to set anything on fire!  Thanks!!!  ;-)

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Teddy Bear Tuesday: Michigan Renaissance Festival

A few years back we attended the Michigan Renaissance Festival. Being that it was Pirate Weekend Viola brought along her Duffy and ShellieMae dressed in their pirate gear! Viola enjoyed picking out "the most beautiful" guests she saw to pose with the bears for her scrapbook. My personal favorite picture is this one (below) with the knight. We have pictures of Viola with this particular knight every year since she was a baby (though I don't actually know his name, I just know him as 'hey, look, there's the knight we got Cello's picture taken with last year!')  

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By far the most exciting moment of the day for Viola was when she saw "The real Captain Jack Sparrow!" Fortunate for us, Captain Jack was a good sport about posing for pictures with teddy bears. In fact, everyone she asked was a pretty good sport about it. We didn't make it to the Renaissance festival the past two years, but are looking forward to going this summer for sure! We'll have to try to make it for pirate weekend again so we can add more pictures to our scrapbook! Or perhaps something entirely different? (Entirely different, you know, relatively speaking...)