Just a few days ago, I posted the Christmas pin from the Animal Kingdom Lodge here on the blog and now above you can spy a *very* similar pin from a stop at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground.   Same design, but instead of Pumba from the Lion King, we get Chip and Dale.

Back in November, I posted a photo of the menu of a Disney horse from the Tri-Circle-D Ranch from the stables at Fort Wilderness that I took during our little stop there.  I have some other photos from our visit that I'll post at some point including our dinner at the Hoop De Doo Revue.

Once the Babe picked up the AKL pin and we spotted other resorts having them, she made it her mission to convince me to go pick them up during our stops.  It wasn't too hard as you might imagine.  All in all, we picked up four of these type of pins from four different resorts that we hopped to during our trip.  Two down (AKL and Fort Wilderness).  Two to come (Boardwalk and Wilderness Lodge).

Last weekend, we braved the crowds and attended Brookfield Zoo's Holiday Magic event that they put on each Christmas season.  And when I say 'crowds', I'm not referring to the crowds in the actual zoo.  Nope.  They're quite manageable.

But what isn't usually manageable?  The traffic congestion that accompanies this event at the zoo.

I posted about our visit to Holiday Magic ahead of Christmas 2013 here and I believe that we took 2014 off based on that visit.  That time, we drove to the Zoo - which took about 20 minutes.  Then proceeded to sit in our car in traffic just trying to get into the parking lot for more than an hour.  Seriously.

This time, however, wasn't as bad.  Maybe because we went in early December?  Or, maybe because Nat's a member and knows about the South Gate?  It still was backed up, but instead of taking 60+ minutes, this time it was more like 20 minutes.

We bundled all three kids up (2 in the stroller) and walked around to see the lights and a few animals.  We went into Tropical World to warm up and then hit up the big cats.  No giraffes, though.  The kids were bummed.

The biggest hit of the night?  The little disposable 'hot pocket' hand warmers that I picked up at Menards earlier this season.  The kids little fingers stayed warm and their attitudes were jolly and bright the whole night (unlike mine, which was grumpy)!  It was a Christmas Miracle!



And now comes the time on the blog where I get to document some of the pins we picked up on a recent trip down to Walt Disney World.  The first one up is this "limited edition" Happy Holidays pin from the Animal Kingdom Lodge that features Pumba in a 'liftable' wreath.

We stayed at the AKL for just one night with a Savannah view and it was great!  Wish we could have spent more time exploring the resort and taking it all in, but it worked for our family.  We took a shot at the night vision goggles and even watched some night-time feedings from our balcony.  The bonus?  A view of the Hollywood Studios fireworks over the top of the trees.

Well, at least the University of Illinois one was turned to December.  The Pixar one was already in December by accident!  Check out last months post where the photo shows December already showing.  Whoops.

I don't seem to have posted in December of 2015, so there's no ranking to compare against, so we'll just have to close out this year with a push.  If I don't get any wall calendars for Christmas, this monthly diary will come to a close.  And that's just fine with me.

For those keeping track like I am (Which, we all know is nobody!):
  • January took 8 days to put up the calendar. I don't think I was tracking January last year. So let's call it a wash. (+0 Days)
  • February took 16 days to put up the calendar. In 2015, I turned it over on the 17th. (-1 Days better)
  • March took 8 days this year. In 2015, I turned them on the 10th. Posted on the 11th. So...that makes it -2 days better.
  • April took just 7 days. I didn't post last April. So..no new net days.
  • May took 12 days. Net + 5 days over last year. Wowsa. 
  • June took 6 days. Net +5 days over last year. Another Wowsa. 
  • July took 8 days. Net -14 days over last year. Huge swing. Leaving a -7 day advantage over last year.
  • August took just 2 days. Net of -8 days just for the month. Putting me at -15 days. 
  • September took 7 days to turn, but 12 days to post. That's a -6 margin (well..technically it is a -11 day margin, but we're going with post date now). 
  • October took just 4 days. That's -4 better than last year. 
  • Add November's 2 more days and we're at -27 days.
  • December was posted on 7th this year, but nothing to compare it to.
Thus, we're netting out with a 27 day 'gain' versus 2015.  Not too shabby, I guess?  

Three kids and now three Disney-themed Lionel O-Gauge train cars for the year.  First was the 75th Anniversary Dumbo boxcar for the King of the Ball Tossers then there was 50th Anniversary Winnie the Pooh Boxcar for the Bird and now above you see a Winter Wishes Pluto 'walking brakeman' boxcar with Santa Minnie and Mickey on the side.  (Here's a quick video that shows what a typical walking brakeman car does.)

This car is in the beautiful non-orange Disney Railroad Lionel packaging, just like the other two.   We set up the kid's Christmas train last weekend at Papa's house and based on the cars that they picked to run on the Mantleburg line, these all will be in heavy rotation next year.




Last night, Indiana Street in Elmhurst looked like a winter wonderland.  With the big snowfall, we went out to clean the sidewalks and driveway and while I was out there, I snapped this photo of our Front Yard Tree.  This is the seventh Elmhurst Front Yard tree that I've posted on the blog and the second one in front of Vic and Equation Boy/Man's house down the street from our old place.

Although you may not be able to tell, this year's tree is a really nice-sized tree in terms of height.  I put one strand of C9 LEDs on it, but Nat didn't think it was bright enough, so she went out and picked up two more strings of C9 LEDs and now there's 150 lights on that thing.

Here's the post showing our 2015 tree out front of Equation Boy/Man's house.
Here's the post from our 2014 tree out front of our old house (sad face).
Here's my post from our 2013 tree.
There's no snow in the photo of our 2012 tree.
Here's my post from our 2011 tree.
Here's my post from our 2010 tree.
Here's my post from our 2009 tree.

Back in 2011, I posted here on the blog about how the University of Illinois Athletic Department was rolling out a limited number (just 77 of them.  Get it?  Grange was #77??) mini replica statues of the famous (and massive) Red Grange statue that sits on the west side of Memorial Stadium.
But they were $4800.  Wowsa.  Obviously, I passed.

Fast forward to this fall and the Athletic Department announced that for Homecoming they were going to give away smaller replica statues to the first 5000 fans who entered Memorial Stadium for the game against the Minnesota Gophers.  

We weren't heading to Homecoming, so I figured I would have to hop on Ebay to find one of these to sit on my desk.  Welp, the first few weeks after the giveaway, there were a few statues popping up on Ebay, but the auctions were driving the prices pretty high (at least for me!) and I just stayed on the sidelines.  

But, I kept 'watching' auctions and I finally found one that looked like it was going to stay under $20.  So, I bid and without much drama (I blame the fact that the Fighting Illini have basically driven away all fans with their losing ways!), I won the statue.  

That's him in my hand in the photo above.  He's not too big, but looks great on my desk.  He's about the size of your standard bobble head.  But, he came in a really nice box.  Check out the four sides below that show off the actual statue, the history of the statue as part of the Memorial Stadium renovation, a bio of Grange and then some stats.  Nice work by the Illini Design team - which if you aren't following on Twitter @IlliniDesign - you should be.  





As I'm thinking about my new home office at Hilltop, I know my 'collection' of things, including this Red Grange mini replica statue will have a home.  Might take a bit, but I can *see* bookcases with some treasures on them on one wall.  

Also, if you are so inclined, you can poke around the Red Grange tag page for a few posts over the years I've written about the Grey Ghost/Galloping Ghost.  


Last Friday, I posted some images from the Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge from the trainroom that featured Walt's Carolwood Pacific line.  In looking through some photos from that same visit, I found this one above that shows Walt himself riding the very Carolwood Pacific line.  Sure, the train line and track layout is neat, but look at that berm?!?  And all the variation in his elevations.  According to Forbes, it was four acres (and they apparently built a new massive house in 2001), so he had plenty of space to spread out.  A guy can wish, right?

This year, we went back to our normal variety of tree:  the Fraser Fir.  And we sized it a bit more appropriate for the space.  Here's last year's post showing the tree we brought home that was a Douglas Fir.

And, once again, we put up our tree, not in our house, but in the house of Equation Boy/Man and my sister Vic, who are graciously putting us up for another holiday season.

If you look at last year's post and scroll down you'll see a photo of the Babe putting our angel on top of the tree.  In the background, you can also see the trim casing that sits above the opening between the family room and dining room.  When you look there, you can clearly see that the angel is sitting *below* that casing - meaning the tree was short.

Look at the photo above.  The angel - who is MIA - would be sitting well above that same casing.  Much better sized.  The angel?  I *think* I know where she is, but will have to wait until next weekend to know if we found her or not.

While we've been getting trees together as a family since 2008, it seems that I've only been posting about them since 2010.  So, here's the full archives six previous trees:

Here's our tiny tree from 2015 at Equation Boy/Man and Vic's house.
Here's the tree in 2014 at our old house.
Here's the post of our 2013 Tree. We kept it in the same position once again.
Here's the post (on google+) of our 2012 Tree.
Here's the post of our 2011 Tree.
Here's the post of our 2010 Tree.


We were at my folk's house over the weekend where the kids helped add all the ornaments to Noonie's Christmas tree and help set up Papa's Lionel Christmas Train.  One of the ornaments that the girls brought to my attention was this one above:  me in Kindergarten from 1983.  Lots of blonde hair in my bowl cut....what a dude!  I have the sneaking suspicion that the King of the Ball Tossers is going to look an awfully lot like this in just a few short years.  (Hopefully, with half Nat's genes in him, he'll be a lot cuter, smarter and kinder than his old man!  And...if I'm hoping, I might as well hope for a punter, too, right??)

As for my Dad's Christmas Train:  Since we're staying at Equation Boy/Man's house, we haven't set up our train for a few years and with my parents moving into their new place with a HUGE basement, my Dad had designs on a new layout for this year's holiday season.  I went to one of our storage units and climbed on top of things to get all the way to the back to find some boxes marked 'trains'.  I found a few and brought them over to my folks' place.  Unfortunately for us, after we went to Home Depot to buy some boards and sawhorses to set the layout up on, we discovered that his legacy track (from the past 50 years) can't be found (might have been sold in their estate sale!) and my Lionel Fasttrack is still in my storage unit.  Back I go climbing on our stuff to try to find and extract a few more boxes with track in them.  And the layout will have to wait until another day.  Since this is a Christmas Train, it has a very short shelf-life.  Thus, every day we miss is precious.