A little background info first ... last year we went to the Fort in November to celebrate my birthday. Before we arrived Kassie, our Mini Schnauzer, suffered a serious case of pancreatitis and we had to see an emergency vet in Lakeland ... then on the second day of our WDW stay I fell in the MK and was in a wheelchair for the remainder of the trip ...

We left home on Thursday, December 9. 17 degrees with snow on the ground, unusual for this time of year. Drove to St. Augustine and overnighted at the Flying J. The weirdest thing happened – I opened the refrigerator door, and it fell off. That door was loaded with food, and the hinge broke. 50+ pounds came crashing down. Soft drinks, condiments, you name it went rolling all over the moho. Thankfully nothing broke. It’s a big side by side fridge, and it did some damage to nearby cabinetry. I will never again store food in the door! We called Dometic and our RV dealer, but no one could tell us how to get the door back on. So we bungee corded the door on (thank goodness DH always carries extra bungee cords) and limped on. Seems I can’t go to Disney without getting an injury. Both hands were bruised from trying to catch all that weight. But it could have been worse. I could have broken a limb. Or the door could have fallen on Kassie – it would have killed her! On Friday morning we hit the road early and after a hearty breakfast at Cracker Barrel checked into the Fort around 8:30. We were very happy to see this upon arrival:

No wait! And surprise, surprise! We got site 732 again, right across the street from Hilda and beside Jeannie! We love this site! So convenient and great neighbors.

Mikmouse and her DH dropped by for a visit. Was great to meet them, especially because they are from NC too!

I won't bore you by repeating photos of the Christmas decorations at the Fort. They have been posted by others many times. But I just had to share this one of Hilda's amazing castle:

Got everything set up, took Kassie for ride on Deedee. Had an early dinner and headed over to DHS. The park was so crowded! Saw the Osborne Lights -- amazing as always.

At 8:00 we registered for the D23 Magic and Merriment event. The D23 team is great! Viewed “One Man’s Dream” and “Archiving the Archives.” It was a long day.

Was at the front desk at 6am the next morning to reregister due to having two reservations. Thankfully we didn’t have to move to a different site. After breakfast went over to Odyssey in Epcot for the D23 M&M event. After signups for the Cinderella Castle Suite tours, Chef Jens Dalhmann and two others from the Germany Pavilion spoke. Then we heard from Meg Crofton (President of WDW). Chefs Erich Herbitschek and Stefan Reimer decorated a gingerbread house and shared humorous stories.

Gary Gillstedt and Mark Rhoades then talked about Magic Ink & Bead. This involves the Beads for Life project by women in Uganda. I had recently heard about this and was very interested. These women started a project where they make beads out of paper and string them into necklaces and bracelets. They had jobs that paid them about a dollar per day, but with these beads they are able to earn about $5 per day and greatly help their families. Gary has worked out in conjunction with Disney a business venture where they ship outdated Disney papers such as park guidebooks to the women. The women use these Disney papers to create their items and ship them back to WDW to be sold in the parks. I picked up this bracelet at the African pavilion in EPCOT:

(will insert photo of bracelet when I find it!)

You can get more information about these women and their business at BeadforLife - BeadParty Bead Jewelry, Shea Butter, Beading and Poverty Eradication for Women in Uganda.

Had some great German snacks, including this chocolate-covered pretzel:

We had reserved seating for the Candlelight Processional, which was absolutely awesome. Whoopie Goldberg was the narrator -- that's her a little to the right of center. And the interpreter for the deaf was amazing! Sorry the photo isn’t great. I dropped my great little subcompact Nikon about 6' onto pavement last year at the Fort, and it hasn't been right since.

Next was a backlot trip from the American Adventure to Indiana Jones in DHS (wish it had been daytime so we could have really appreciated the adventure). No pictures were allowed, and it was too dark to sneak any. By the time we got on the bus, DH was very irritated. About 175 of the 200 attendees were sitting on buses. The remaining 25 or so ((including us) stood in the cold for about a half hour. An empty bus was in front of us, but we couldn’t get on. Finally they loaded two wheelchair people and let us on. By that point DH was in such a bad mood that he refused to eat dinner. Sorry, this is blurry too …

I thought the food was good. Of course DH thought it was terrible. They couldn't have served us anything that would have made him happy. We had pork roast, beef, a seafood medley with lobster, crab. shrimp, and Yukon gold potatoes, grilled veggies, a great salad, and several desserts -- I can't describe them since I'm a low carber and didn't eat them. We skipped the private showing of the Osborne Lights because at this point DH refused to attend. But it would have been nice to have only 200 people there and not have to fight the crowds. The parks were the busiest this weekend that I’ve ever seen them--hopefully lots of locals who wouldn't be here on Monday.

Sunday was our D23 Magic Kingdom day. It started with a brunch at the Top of the World Lounge in Bay Lake Tower. We expected more food than we were given. Had egg and Italian sausage quesadillas, fresh fruit skewers, and ham and fried egg sandwiches. Not too substantial for someone who doesn’t eat bread. Then on to the Magic Kingdom and our tour of Cinderella’s Castle Suite. So many photos of the suite are available on the web that I’ll just post a few unusual ones I took looking out her frosted and crackly windows. We had approximately 7 minutes inside the suite because one of the earlier tours had run over and the guide wanted to get everyone back on track. Wish we hadn’t been the group to get shortchanged because there is so much to see in that small space!

Our guide said that no one can pay to stay in the suite. It is only given away, and miracles have happened there. She said if you don't have faith, then if you only knew what had happened in the suite you would certainly have faith then! And no, contrary to rumor, Michael Jackson never stayed there. However, Tom Cruise and his family have stayed there, a deal worked out through the marketing department, because Tom donated a large amount to charity because of his stay. And the odds of winning a night's stay during last year's Dreams were one in 600,000.

BTW, when you walk through the castle, look for the door to the elevator lobby that takes you to the suite:

After an early dinner we returned to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Only this time it wasn’t so merry because it was COLD! Unbearably cold. We went to the D23 lounge area on the Liberty Bell – no big deal, same refreshments that everyone else got. A big disappointment. We had a reserved parade viewing in front of Diamond Horseshoe – another no big deal. Then a reserved fireworks viewing area – at the Plaza Rose Garden -- again not so great. Tinkerbell didn’t fly tonight, probably because of the high winds. And most of the fireworks were launched far away from the castle – again probably because of the high winds. End of the D23 Magic and Merriment event. Am I happy we attended – YES. Otherwise I would have always wondered and wished because I heard such great things about the event from last year’s attendees. Would I do it again – a bigger NO! It wasn’t worth the $200+ cost per person. We could have done most of the same things on our own without any additional cost. The only things we really received for our money were the tour of Cinderella's Castle Suite (priceless!), two meals of questionable value, admission to MVMCP, and some unwanted gifts – including a DVC recyclable bag, a cookbook, a DVC Christmas ornament, a CD, two fastpasses, and some food items. Being a low carber, I’ll give away the food and cookbook. No nice gifts like last year.

On Monday we intended to spend the day in MK because we weren’t able to see any of the attractions Sunday due to the crowds. You know what they say about the best laid plans. We’ve developed a trend here. On our last Disney trip the dog got sick and I was injured. Well, I’d already had my injury, and thankfully it wasn’t nearly as severe as last year. On Sunday afternoon Kassie had a “spell” where she tremored for a minute or two. We didn’t know what to make of it. Sunday night when we returned to the moho we saw evidence that something was awry, but we didn’t know what it was. On Monday morning she had another instance of shaking. I went to the outpost and got some info on local vets just in case. While I was gone Dave came by and introduced himself to my DH. Said his wife may be able to get out of the hospital on Wednesday. Hopefully I’ll get to meet him later in the week.

Anyway, Kassie seemed to be doing better and returned to her normal self. So we decided to watch her for a few hours, then go to the MK to see MSEP. That never happened. About 2:30 she had a full blown grand mal seizure. I had never seen one before, and it was scary! I immediately called the vet that Hilda recommended. (I can never thank Hilda enough for the assistance she has given us these last two years!) Someone over at the outpost took DH to the car rental office, and we rushed her to the vet. Her blood work came back okay (that meant no organ damage to trigger the seizures), and vet started her on antiseizure medication. It will take a week to take full effect, but he assured us we should try to enjoy the rest of our vacation because when she’s having a seizure there’s nothing we can do to help her. Easier said than done! The vet also said that the seizures could be caused by something she’s come in contact with here that she’s allergic to – such as bug spray. We may never know.

Moral of the story: always expect the unexpected and budget at least $300 for vet bills. And BTW, Alamo almost wouldn’t let us have a car because we don’t have a credit card. DH finally convinced them to take our debit card because it can be used as a credit card too, but they said never again would they do it. And DH offered cash, but that was even worse.

6am Tuesday morning - 29 degrees with a wind chill of 18 degrees. The temp would continue to drop for a few hours. No park early this morning! Went to Downtown Disney, but it was so crowded that shopping was impossible. After lunch we went to DHS (not as crowded as our earlier visit) and again froze.

On Wednesday we awoke to a record low of 32. After breakfast at TE we went to Mouse Gears at EPCOT to do some serious shopping. These 20% off coupons you get with counter service meals really help. (20% off all your purchases at select shops from 9:00 am to noon.)

Finally met Dave and Retired and Happy this afternoon. Think Kassie had another seizure while we were at EPCOT. She’s disoriented and not herself.

Dave’s wife was released from the hospital today. He didn’t have quite enough time to get his castle set up for viewing. Can’t wait to see it tomorrow!

Thursday morning – our last full day here. A week isn’t nearly long enough to accomplish everything we want to see and do. It’s 34 degrees this morning, and hopefully we’ll see upper 60s and decent weather today. Went to the MK in the morning and rode our favorites -- good thing since in the afternoon the lines were too long! Did some more shopping to use another 20% off coupon ... love those coupons! Had a Southern Smothered Hot Dog (or was it Smothered Southern) with homemade fries at the Meadow swimming pool snack bar -- a hot dog with pulled pork barbecue and cole slaw -- delicious! Then back to the MK. After taking in a few more attractions, we had a leisurely stroll back down Main Street and said our goodbyes. Rode the monorail over to the Grand Floridian to see the gingerbread house, then back to the Contemporary and a chilly boat ride back to the Fort. Saw Dave's castle show -- WOW! He's on site 707 -- don't miss it! Started cleaning up the moho for travel in the morning. It's so sad to be leaving with unused tickets -- never done that before.

Dave's castle:

You have to see it at night!

Friday, December 17 -- Breakfast at Trail's End (our third time this visit -- wish they had bacon that actually tasted like bacon, but everything else was always good) and, after loading the golf cart, left Fort Wilderness at 11:25 am. In St Augustine it was 78 degrees! Hated to be heading north into cold weather. Overnighted at the Flying J in Brunswick, GA.

Saturday, December 18 -- as we were traveling northward,
60 degrees - Brunswick, GA
55 degrees - Savannah, GA
47 degrees - Walterboro, SC
41 degrees - Columbia, SC
38 degrees - Rock Hill, SC - rain and sleet

Then thankfully the temp started rising and were able to drive home. For awhile we were worried!

How differently this trip turned out from what we imagined when we left home! We certainly didn't expect the fridge to break or Kassie to suddenly start having seizures. Our expectations of the D23 event were too high. Crowds were terrible. The weather was miserable most of the week. BUT IF THESE THINGS HAD TO HAPPEN, NO BETTER PLACE TO BE! Overall it was a really good trip.