Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Thomas, Take the Wheel!

We arrived at the Driving Centre at 4:15 pm.  There was a line up and we had to take a number.  Shortly after we sat down, Thomas school friend arrived and took a number.  We chatted while we waited our turn.  Thomas was well prepared:  he already finished eight in class driving lessons and he completed several practice tests online.

The lady finally called our number.  Thomas filled out some paperwork, then completed a vision test, calling out the numbers he saw on a contraption that looked like a giant viewfinder.  The lady announced:  "That will be $146.00 please," and my jaw dropped.  I think it cost $10.00 when I wrote the test 31 years ago.  Nevertheless, driving is a necessary skill.  I paid the fee.

Thomas took the test paper into the exam room while I waited in the waiting area.  The minutes ticked by.  I watched as the other teenagers returned their test one by one and were called to the front one by one.  "Congratulations!" said the lady behind the desk.  Three people in a row passed the test.  We were on a roll.  I prayed that Thomas would make it four.

At 5 pm, the worker behind the desk asked another worker to take the exam papers away from the remaining test writers.  I prayed that Thomas was just about to finish.  "Did you get a chance to finish?" I asked him as he walked out of the exam room.  "Just," he said.  "Thomas Jonasson" called the worker behind the desk.  "You passed!" she announced.  "Congratulations, Thomas" I said, high fiving my son.  Thomas smiled, both joy and relief spreading across his face.

"This calls for a pizza to celebrate," I said, as we drove out of the parking lot.  We ordered a pizza at the neighbourhood pizzeria.  There's nothing like seizing the day.  While we waited for it to bake, I let Thomas get behind the wheel and he drove us down a back street to Lynden Park Mall.  Then he circled the back parking lot and returned down the back street to the pizzeria.  Then he drove us up Brantwood Park Road to our house.  Congratulations, Thomas!


Monday, 15 December 2014

Christmas Cookie Collection

In honour of my Grandma Tufts who used to bake 13 different kinds of Christmas cookies each year, here are 13 recipes for you to try this Christmas.

1.  Chocolaty Melting Snowmen at http://www.bhg.com/recipe/chocolaty-melting-snowmen/

2.  Christmas Sugar Cookies at http://www.bhg.com/christmas/cookies/christmas-sugar-cookies/

3-D Sugar Cookie Trees

3.  Snowflake cookies at http://cakewhiz.com/snowflake-cookies/

4.  Chocolate Mint Thumbprints at http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/chocolate-mint-thumbprints/84c09832-5f0e-4590-8416-83aea0e4e972

Chocolate-Mint Thumbprints

5.  Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies at http://www.365daysofbakingandmore.com/2011/11/day-276-day-5-of-the-12-days-of-cookies-peanut-butter-reindeer-cookies/

6.  Candy Cane Cookies at http://www.pinterest.com/pin/133208101452294158/

Candy Cane Cookies by Betty Crocker ~ An annual tradition in our home for more years than I wish to say... RECIPE: http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/candy-cane-cookies/93832e29-3b4f-4977-ae5a-9820053b254c

7.  Peanut Butter Snowballs at 

Peanut Butter Snowballs

8.  Date Pinwheels at 

9.  Gingerbread Cookies at http://www.annies-eats.com/2009/12/16/gingerbread-cookies/

10.  Christmas Shortbread Stars at http://www.mumsnet.com/food/recipe/341-Christmas-shortbread-stars

Christmas shortbread stars

11.  Peanut Butter Bites at http://baking.food.com/recipe/peanut-butter-bites-238937?ic1=obnetwork

12.  Cherry Pinwheels at http://www.bhg.com/christmas/cookies/christmas-cookies/#page=19

Cherry Pinwheels

13.  Mint Meringue Kisses at http://www.bhg.com/christmas/cookies/christmas-cookies/#page=25

Mint Meringue Kisses

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Frozen Facts

After seeing the Frozen production at Hollywood Studios in Disney World, Rob and I decided it was high time we watched the movie.  We loved the story and the music, especially the song "Let it Go", which was written in only one day.  Here are ten facts you may not know about the runaway hit from last Christmas.

1.  Elsa, the queen of Arondale, was originally supposed to be a villain.

2.  The names Hans, Kristoff, Anna and Sven are a tribute to The Snow Queen author Hans Christian Andersen.

3.  Walt Disney wanted to make a movie based on the short  The Snow Queen, which inspired Frozen, since the 1940's.

4.  Since the movie frozen was released, Elsa and Anna have become popular baby names for girls.

5.  Fifty different animators worked on the scene in which the ice palace is built.  The production team visited a hotel made of ice for inspiration.

6.  In March of 2014, two Boston firemen sang "Let it Go" to a little girl trapped in an elevator to calm her down.

7.  The painting in the palace gallery is a representation of Jean Honore Fragonard's The Swing.

8.  Limited edition Frozen Anna and Elsa dolls have been selling for $10,000 on eBay.

9.  Olaf references Bert's penguin dance from Mary Poppins when he performs "The Summer Song".

10.  Online searches for flights to Norway have increased by 153% and tourism in Norway has drastically increased since Frozen premiered.

11.  Frozen is the highest grossing animated film of all time.

12.  Because of her braid, Elsa has 420,000 CGI strands of hair, 10 times the amount of Rapunzel.

13.  An actual reindeer visited the studio to serve as inspiration for the character of Sven.

14.  The longest single frame in the movie took 132 hours to complete.

15.  The animation team created a snowflake generator program to build 2,000 different snowflake designs.

Source:  "54 Things You Never Knew About Frozen"
at http://www.buzzfeed.com/javiermoreno/frozen-is-awesome#.xpKQDjJqw.


Saturday, 13 December 2014

Nobody Does Christmas like Disney

Nobody does Christmas like Disney.  This past week we travelled to Florida for a vacation.  When we arrived at our Mayan-themed resort Coronado Springs, it was decorated with giant poinsettias, native to Mexico.  Garland hung from the ceiling as we walked down the hallway.  A giant Christmas tree laden with ornaments and topped with an angel, stood proudly in the front entrance.  The Mayan-themed hotel had a profound effect on my husband Rob who transformed from a boisterous German into a quiet Mexican who couldn't stop saying the word "Casitas".  


On our first full day in Florida, we travelled to EPCOT.  At the entrance to the pavilions was another large Christmas tree, this one with messages like JOYEUX NOEL, FELIZ NAVIDAD and FROHE WEIHNACHTEN hanging from it.  Poinsettia trees stood in front of the giant golf ball at the front entrance.  


Hollywood Studios didn't disappoint.  We celebrated Thomas' 16th birthday there.  I had seen a girl with a birthday pin on her shirt the day before so I asked at Coronado Springs about one for Thomas. We stopped at the ABC Commissary for lunch.  While Jacqueline and I were in the washroom, an employee spotted Thomas' pin.  He shouted into the microphone:  "Attention ABC Commissary!  We have a birthday in the house.  Everyone sing Happy Birthday to Thomas!"  The whole cafeteria erupted in song.  That night we were dazzled by the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights.  We were happy to get back to the Casitas that night after a busy day.  


Our third park was Animal Kingdom where we dared to ride on the Rapids.  Thomas stayed dry, but I got wet and Jacqueline was drenched from head to toe.  We tried drying off with the hand dryer in the washroom, but it didn't work.  Jacqueline said her shoes felt like sponges.  Normally, when we go on a trip I buy a couple of outfits ahead of time, but this year I didn't.  So, it was the perfect opportunity to shop.  Jacqueline and I got Minnie Mouse outfits.  Jacqueline's favourite item was the sparkly Minnie ears.  What a relief to be in dry clothes again!   

Mickey, Minnie & Goofy in front of the Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom courtesy www.diszine.com.

Last but not least, we feasted our eyes on yet another giant Christmas tree when we arrived at the Magic Kingdom, our fourth and final park.  Thomas was thrilled to meet Ariel and get a picture taken with her.  Jacqueline enjoyed the carousel, even though she is getting older now.  And my quiet Mexican husband turned back into a boisterous German during a traffic jam at the "It's a Small World Ride".  We all enjoyed a sing along performance of the movie "Frozen".  I didn't understand all of the jokes, but the kids did because they have seen the movie.  The piece de resistance was the Cinderella castle brilliantly lit up for Christmas.  That night Rob took Jacqueline to the Coronado Springs gift shop while I worked out at the hotel gym.  When I returned, Jacqueline was hiding something under her blanket -- a forbidden stuffy!  It was Olaf the Snowman from "Frozen".   


We spent our final day at the Casitas playing volleyball, ping pong and swimming in the pool. Jacqueline loved the water slide built inside a giant Mayan pyramid.  Thomas tried to beat Rob at ping pong.  Later in the afternoon we headed to Downtown Disney for supper at the Rainforest Cafe and shopping.  The Christmas store had so many beautiful ornaments.  Rob purchased a DVD about the Disney Parks.

Downtown Disney courtesy wdwfanzone.com.

We were sad to say goodbye to the Casitas.  Merry Christmas, Disney World!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Carving a Magic Kingdom out of Florida Swampland

JFK in Dallas, Texas circa 1963 courtesy newsbusters.org.

It took 9000 construction workers, cost $400 million and eight years to build.  Today, over 52 million tourists visit Disney World each year, the busiest amusement park in the world.

On November 22, 1963, while President Kennedy travelled that fatal motorcade route through the streets of Dallas, Texas, Walt Disney was flying in an airplane above central Florida, mapping out a location for his new amusement park.  I have often wondered why he didn't choose a location in southern Florida, where the temperatures are warm even in the winter time.  But southern Florida was likely too pricey and too developped.  There would be no room for expansion as was the problem in Anaheim, the location of Disneyland.  Walt Disney's official explanation was that Orlando was located near Interstate 4 and Sunshine Parkway, making it easily accessible by car to people all over the state.

Why did Walt choose the east coast?  Surveys had shown that only 2 % of visitors to Disneyland hailed from east of the Mississippi River.  Therefore, there was no question that the new park would be located in the eastern United States.  Walt had briefly considered Niagara Falls, but its frigid winters would have prevented his park from being open year round.  Therefore, he centred his search on the southeastern part of the country.

Florida swampland courtesy wordpress.com.

Walt's choice did save him money:  the Florida swampland only cost him $180 per acre.  In 1964, under false company names, he purchased 27,400 acres of swampland 12 miles south of Orlando. Speculation was rampant as to who had purchased so much land in central Florida.  Finally, one Orlando newspaper announced "We say our mystery industry is Disney".  In 1965, Walt held an official press conference announcing Project Florida.  Within days, the swampland skyrocketed to $1000 per acre and within months to tens of thousands of dollars per acre.

Walt assembled a team of architects and engineers whom he dubbed "imagineers" to execute his plans for Disney World.  The team broke ground in the Fall of 1969, bulldozing endless acres of cypress and pine trees.  The construction workers built 50 miles of levees and canals around the property.  They drained water from areas where they planned to construct the park. They removed 7 million cubic tons of dirt for the Seven Seas Lagoon which was used to build the foundation for the Magic Kingdom.

Walt had sketched a design for Disney World which was similar to Disneyland:  a wheel configuration with spokes.  The hub of the wheel would be the Cinderella castle.  The spokes of the wheel would be the streets leading to the various lands:  Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, etc.  Walt's inspiration for the wheel-like design had come from the town of Goderich, Ontario where his grandparents had lived.


The Cinderella Castle, patterned after Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, Germany, was built to sustain hurricane winds.  Plans for the castle even included an apartment for Walt and his family, which they never used as Walt passed away before the castle was built.  Buildings sprung up along Main Street USA, inspired by Walt's childhood hometown of Marceline, Missouri.  From there, construction began on the various "lands".  

Main Street USA courtesy tumblr.com.

Walt Disney World officially opened on October 1, 1971 (see my post "Flying Elephants and Mad Tea Parties" at http://alinefromlinda.blogspot.ca/2012/10/flying-elephants-mad-tea-parties.html). While Walt never got to see the finished product, his brother Roy was present for the festivities.  To think that the Imagineers carved the Magic Kindgom out of seemingly useless swampland.

Disney World's opening day October 1, 1971, courtesy whican.com.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Walt Disney Touch

Here are fifteen facts about Disneyland & Disney World which point to Walt Disney's immaculate attention to detail.

1.  Beneath Disney World are a series of tunnels so that characters can travel to their respective lands without being seen.  Therefore, they never appear in a land that they don't belong in ex. Snow White in Frontierland.

2.  Walt Disney had rules for characters at his amusement park including;  they couldn't say NO, they couldn't break character and they couldn't point with one finger to show directions (it was considered rude to point).

3.  Disney wanted his guests' experience to be a pleasurable and a genuine one so he used "smellitzers" throughout the park:  a vanilla scent was wafted into Main Street USA; a sea salt scent surrounded the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

4.  Walt had an apartment above the fire hall on Main Street USA.  If he was in residence, he placed a lamp in the window.

5.  Disney employees in the parks were not supposed to grow any facial hair until recent years.

6.  Walt Disney once ate a hotdog in Disney land, counting the number of steps he took until he finished it.  He placed the garbage can 25 steps from the snack stand.

7.  Women who played princesses had to stand 5' 4" to 5' 7", except for Alice, Wendy and Tinkerbell who were shorter.  Princesses had to be under 27 years of age.

8.  Walt never wanted to be called Mr. Disney.  Therefore, he had all Disneyland employees wear badges with first names only.

9.  In keeping with the goal of entertaining its guests, Disney World is only second to the US military in purchasing explosives for its nightly fireworks displays.

10.  Disneyland and Disney World's Main Street buildings have names written on the windows.  These are individuals who have contributed to the design of the parks.

11.  Snow White Castle in Disneyland and Cinderella Castle in Disney World were both designed using the artist's trick "forced perspective" which makes them appear higher than they actually are.

12.  Gum is forbidden to be sold at Disneyland and Disney World.  It is not even sold at the Orlando Airport!  Walt was tired of picking gum off the bottom of his shoe every ten minutes when he went to other amusement parks.

13.  The King Arthur Carousel in Disneyland features hand carved and painted horses which are polished every night.

14.  Walt used to stoop down and study the various buildings at Disneyland to get the perspective of a young child.

15.  Once Walt overheard a Disneyland guest say:  "We don't need to go on this ride, we've already seen it."  That was just cause for Walt to have the Jungle Cruise ride overhauled.

For more information, read "90 Facts You Didn't Know About Disney" at http://www.empireonline.com/features/90-disney-facts/9.asp OR "The Walt Disney Touch" at

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Walt Disney: A Janus-Minded Entrepreneur


The Magic Kingdom, built in 1955, is a paradox:  Main Street USA preserves America in 1910 while Tomorrowland projects into the future year, 1986.  Walt Disney, a Janus-minded entrepreneur, was forever looking forward and backwards at the same time.  He longed for the days of his youth in turn of the century Marceline, Missouri.  However, he filled his amusement park with examples of the future:  the monorail, the people mover and the Carousel of Progress.

Main Street USA reminds us of America's past with its old town square theatre, barber shop, emporium and city hall.

Likewise, Fantasyland features buildings such as the Sleeping Beauty Castle fashioned after the 19th Century Neuschwanstein in Germany, and the Crystal Palace, modelled after the building from the London World Exposition in 1851.

Frontierland includes a shooting arcade, Swiss Family Robinson Tree House and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Liberty Square features a Mississippi Steamboat, a Victorian style Haunted Mansion and the Hall of Presidents, which all harken back to America at the turn of the century.

However, Tomorrowland projects into the future with the Carousel of Progress, celebrating American inventions, the Speedway and the people mover.


Walt Disney himself contributed to the progress of America with his pioneering techniques in film and animation.  Disney debuted the first sound cartoon in 1928, Steamboat Willie, and the first technicolour cartoon, Flowers & Trees, in 1932.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, debuting in 1937, was the first full length animated feature film.

Walt Disney also contributed to the growth of American cities.  Anaheim, built on an old orange grove, grew from a town of 15,000 in 1955 to a metropolis of 336,000 today.  Orlando, fashioned out of a Florida swamp, grew from a small city of 99,000 in 1971 to a large city of 255,000 today. Orlando Airport is now one of the biggest in the United States thanks to Disney World.

Note:  To read about another Janus-minded entrepreneur, check out my post about Henry Ford Museum, "Light's Golden Jubilee" at http://alinefromlinda.blogspot.ca/2013/08/august-3.html.