Friday, January 13, 2006

Decadence in the New Year

We're only two weeks into the New Year, but trying to eat healthy has been a special challenge. We just returned from a four-night cruise on the Disney Wonder. It was our 48th trip on Disney Cruise Line, and in all that time, you can imagine that we've gotten to know some of the crew members. That includes the chefs, so that adds an additional layer of challenge to the avoidance of overindulgence.

Actually, we do gravitate towards some of the healthier items. The vegetable curry onboard is delicious; even my husband, a died-in-the-wool meat eater, will scorn cow flesh for the veggie curries. But I also love artery-clogging treats like eggs benedict in the morning, chicken tenders and fries for lunch, and a juicy steak with bleu cheese sauce for dinner, capped with three scoops of homemade gelato.

Normally we try to follow good eating habits the week before a cruise. This time around, we threw caution to the wind and ate at the Melting Pot in Dr. Phillips the night before we sailed. It was a somewhat special occasion...we wanted to repay the friends who had helped us decorate and control traffic for the Holiday House Tour. It takes good friends to add the finishing touches that transform a house into a winter wonderland. It takes a very good friend to stand around for hours, directing hundreds of people with a canned smile while listening to Snow Miser sing on the TV for the twentieth time. And it takes a very, very good friend to stake out the perfect pine in a public park and lop off a limb, then transform it into a spitting image of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree.

Our friends hadn't been to The Melting Pot for over a decade, so we were anxious to re-initiate them into the pleasures of fondue. Any good fondue meal starts off with melted cheese. We selected a special offering that had a wine base and was peppered with mushrooms. Next up was salad (they have the best raspberry dressing), and then the main course. I ordered steak and portabello mushrooms, while my husband went with the French Quarter combo. One of our friends got that too, while the other stuck to chicken. We selected the mojo-style broth to cook it in. After the last tasty morsel had been fished from the cooking cauldron, we topped it all off with a chocolate mint dessert.

The meal was delicious but curiously non-eventful. Usually, when we all get together, something crazy happens. But this time the meal was quite serene, with no blogworthy occurences. When it was over, we all piled into Canyonero (my Aztek) for the return to Celebration, feeling full and content but just a bit disappointed.

Not to worry...the night was still young. I needed to stop at the All-Star Movie resort to drop off a package. We took Apopka-Vineland to the Lake Buena Vista entrance to Disney World. I wasn't too sure where the All-Star hotels were located, so I figured I would tool around until I saw a sign. I had a vague feeling that they were near the Animal Kingdom, but there was dissention in the car so I ended up at Wild World of Sports (I realized too late that I was taking directions from my husband, who a) is nearly blind at night without his glasses; and b) had consumed the better part of a bottle of wine at dinner.

I always poke fun at tourists who make a turn out of the wrong lane, but now I was the guilty party. I had missed the right turn only lane, so I gazed around worriedly for witnesses and then screeched into a turn from the "straight" lane. Thankfully it was late, so there were no other cars around. After a bit more confusion and dangerous tourist maneuvers, I finally found myself at the All-Star resort gate. Unfortunately, the marathon was slated for the next day, so I was in a neverending conga line of other people trying to get in. Each had to stop at the gate and show ID, a tedious process that slowed us to a turtle crawl. But the end was finally in sight. We had reached the hallowed All-Star grounds, so Movies had to be close by.

Of course, it turned out to be the farthest of the three hotels (Sports, Music, and Movies). I breathed a sigh of relief as we pulled up to the entrance. I gave hubby the package and instructed him, "If the checkout line is too long, try to find a cast member and just give it to them." I had forgotten that his blood alcohol level was high enough to cause most of my instructions to sound like, "Blah, blah, blah."

Thankfully, the line wasn't too bad. I guess most of the marathoners were smart enough to pick the closest resorts. Hubby jumped back in the car, sans package, and we tooled off to the exit. Now came another challenge: How to get to World Drive and back home to Celebration.

A spirited debate with hubby ensued, but as I merged onto the road he indicated, I realized that I was, indeed, on World Drive. After all, there was the familiar animated Tower of Terror sign that I use as a landmark. Unfortunately, a moment later I realized that I was going the wrong way! Instead of Celebration, I was headed smack dab at the gates of the Magic Kingdom. Oh well, not to worry. I knew that there was a turnaround area in the median somewhere up ahead.

At this point, I really felt sorry for our long-suffering friends, who were trapped in the back seat of the Aztek of Marital Discord. I blamed our predicment on my husband's faulty navigation, while he promptly hurled the blame back at me, saying, "Why would you listen to someone who's ten sheets to the wind?"

I toyed with the idea that perhaps we had all been somehow killed instantly. Perhaps a semi had plowed into Canyonero head on and we were whisked to the afterlife in the blink of an eye. Now, without knowing it, we were probably doomed to drive the long, lonely roads of Disney World forever, never reaching our final destination. We all agreed that my husband must have led the most sinless life, since he got to spend eternity with a pleasant buzz.

Finally we reached the turnout...and the %!^#*!)@ thing was blocked off with cones!!! Ugh! I had no other choice but to pass through the Magic Kingdom toll plaza. Of course, I picked the slowest lane, so I had plenty of time to mutter to myself about tourists who love to tell their life stories to toll collectors and parking lot attendants, making the conga line behind them wait.

I figured that we'd have to go the long way, past the Ticket and Transportation Center and the Polynesian Hotel. But when I explained my dilemma to the attendant, she said, "Oh, no! You can turn around right up there!" She proceeded to explain the location and process in detail, while the others in the car mocked me, saying, "Yeah, that poor person in the car behind you is going 'Damn tourists, always have to tell their life stories!'"

We passed through the toll booth and screeched into a quick turnaround. Finally we were heading home! I had thought my stop at All-Star Movies would only take a few minutes, but we had been wandering aimlessly for the better part of an hour. I was so happy to see the Tower of Terror sign again, this time from the correct direction. Soon enough we were back in town and darned glad to be there!

Thus far it's been a decadent and eventful new year, and January is only half over. I can't wait to see how the rest of 2006 unfolds.

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