Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Conventions have their own rules for ticket holders and BlizzCon is no exception. You must wear the issued name tag at all times when you're in the convention hall.

Players take that mandate farther and commission artists to draw their game toon. I wasn't exactly sure how that worked, but I knew I needed some sort of temporary ID until I could get the official one. The official one comes with a lanyard.

Casting about my home, the only lanyard of any note was one I got about 10 years ago when I visited Colonial Williamsburg. While that was okay, it came with a heavy duty clear ID pocket, it was absolutely NOT geeky enough for me.

Speaking of geeky, there is a service called "Loot Crate". Every month, you get a box filled with miscellaneous stuff tailored to your gaming interest, or your dog. (They don't do anything for cats.) I think it was in either August or September's Loot Crate, there were World of Warcraft items. One of my coworkers, Tara, gets a crate and, knowing my game play, gave me a few items she didn't want. She also got these in her crate and she didn't want them.

At first, I thought it was a lanyard. One of my guild members who also gets a crate said, "Um...Gimm? (Gimmlette is my game toon's name. Everyone calls me "Gimm".) Those are shoelaces." Okay. I can make this work.

I've accumulated some lanyards which are very lightweight and tried to create a stronger necklace to wear until I got the BlizzCon one. I found an old luggage tag and, with some experimentation, this was the end result.

The shoelaces were long so I wound up folding them in half to make it work. The Marvel design was clearly visible and, after printing out a screenshot of my toon, the whole thing worked moderately well. This was credit card size and, if I had so desired, I could have kept an ID or a credit card in the pouch where it was easily accessible. But my purse (see below) did such a fine job, I never resorted to sticking anything other than the photo in the container.

Once Ashley arrived, the three of us set out to get our tickets and goodie bags. Part of what you get is a premade lanyard and ticket combo.

This is nice. If I wanted to, I could reuse this for some other event. It's got my name and my toon's name on it. When you're in a convention like this, your real name is almost secondary to your toon's name. The few times I introduced myself, I was "Hi, I'm Gimmlette, from Spectacular Death on Llane." It's your toon name, guild name and server name. That's who you are. That realization was rather humorous. The ticket pocket is big enough to stick something behind the official ticket, if you wanted. My shoelace improvisation can't hold a candle to this.

I don't know where, exactly, to display it. I'm extremely glad I got to attend this event. This lanyard and ticket are treasured keepsakes. I just need to find a place worth of them with which to display this. Onward with the cleaning and purging.

Beverage:  water


I Spy With My Little Eye

Remember those books? They were all the rage some 17-odd years ago. I remember, when I worked at The Bookstore, we couldn't keep them in stock. A new one would come out and we knew exactly how many to reserve and which customers were sure to pick up the new version. They just needed a call when the book was in.

It's a great game to play with the grade school set. It teaches kids to be observant of their surroundings. It teaches language skills and how to be patient. When it's their turn to pick something, and the beginning clue is, "It's blue!", it can be hard for them not to tell you it's your socks when you guess it's your purse which is clearly visible on the counter. You can tell I've had some experience with this.

So, it was with bemusement  that I noticed the following.

See it? I spy with my little eye, something slender and blue.

How about now? How about I say that it's not the Jeep, nor the bumper sticker affixed to the bumper. It's that blue thing in the center of the photo.

The pen is a brand we use in the office. I have no idea how long it had been between the bumper and the body. I don't remember why I noticed it, either. Might have been some morning when I was brushing the frost off the back window and I happened to look down.

I stared, incredulously, and then had a hearty laugh. I've never said anything to my coworkers about this, waiting to see if someone says, "Um...has anyone seen my pen, anyone, like, oh...I don't know, you, Deb?" So far, and I know I found this back in October, no one has volunteered any sort of clue as to who did this.

I thought about leaving the pen there. It would be of value when I'm on a job and forget to bring one. "Oh! Wait right here! I have one stuck in my bumper for just such an emergency!" The looks, alone, would be worth it. But as we get into winter, with slush and snow, I realized it would probably get broken. That defeats the whole point of leaving it where it is. So, I carry it around in my purse as a reminder that humor is all around us, encouraged by some who wish to remain anonymous.

Beverage:  Water


A Discerning Choice

Everyone has a comfort food. For some, it's as simple as a hot mug of tea. For others, it's steak and potatoes. There is something we reach for when the going has been akin to walking uphill through molasses in January in Helsinki.

For me, comfort food is situation determinate. Hot cocoa. Macaroni and cheese. Chocolate. They all fit the bill. It can simply be a matter of what's on hand or what I can have access to with the least amount of preparation. Let's face it. If you're stressed and want comfort food, you don't want to have to spend 90 minutes preparing it. It needs to be ready.

Viola. Comfort food at the ready.

The egg nog ice cream is only available from Thanksgiving through the second week of January. Oh my. It's so good.

Egg nog is such a diet buster. I have never liked rum so the pairing of egg nog and rum has never appealed to me. That's where something like this ice cream comes in handy. I drenched my bowls of it with warmed chocolate sauce and sprinkled chopped walnuts or'top.

The chocolate peanut butter is a silky semi-sweet chocolate with ribbons of creamy peanut butter. It didn't need any ornamentation, although I chopped more walnuts than I wanted for the egg nog so there is no harm in adding them to the chocolate peanut butter.

Given the stress of moving the office and all the travel and inspections I've had to do, either of these were a fantastic way to wind down. And yes, it was supper on more than one occasion. Both are gone now, but there will be a New Year's Day delivery. I adore their banana chocolate walnut but felt three quarts was too much for the freezer. I may need to move some things around or, what a novel concept, cook some of the frozen stuff I have in there. Then there's room for three quarts of ice cream.

Beverage:  water


Monday, December 28, 2015


On the secretary in the living room is a 365 New Word-a-Day calendar. I have purchased one of these every year since 1980. That's 35, well, 36 since 2016's is in the box waiting for New Year's day, years of words. Some I know. Some I've never heard of before. Some I have just an inkling of what they mean. It's a great way to maintain my vocabulary.

It's always a source of immense humor when the word of the day accidentally corresponds to what's going on in the day itself. Let's look at the November vacation.

For some reason, I don't have a photo of November 3rd, which was a travel day, but I do have the words from the 4th through the 9th, when I returned. November 4th's word was perfect.

My "temporary or second lodging" was a hotel near the Anaheim Convention Center. How apropos.

Friday's word?

I guess I could say I used dirty clothes as dunnage to surround the few souvenirs I brought back.

Saturday and Sunday's words, on the same page now, (I remember when they were separate days.) are easier to tie to the day itself.

Ashley and I attended the Legion (World of Warcraft's upcoming expansion of the core game, with new quests and excitement) question and answer discussion on Saturday. There were seven developers trotted out onstage to answer fan questions. They might be a bit uncomfortable being referred to as a "pleiad" but it fits.

And, I made one of those facepalm connections which I'm sure everyone else knows, except me. One of the easiest constellations to find is the Pleiades, or The Seven Sisters. It's a cluster in kind of a stretched-out "w" near the north star. I looked at the word when I got home and had an "aha" moment. I don't know that I'll have a reason to use the word, since it requires a group of seven, but we'll stick this in our verbal arsenal and trot it out, assuming I can remember.

What to say about "mesmerize"? I know this word and, boy, if ever there was one more apt for the day we spent completely at Disneyland, I don't know what it is. This is a perfect example of how, sometimes, eerie it is when the word and the day dovetail.

Monday was "go home day". The shuttle came to the hotel at 5:35 a.m. Technically, I got up at 7 a.m., my time, but tell that to my cell phone alarm clock. It took a full 75 minutes to go from the hotel to the airport, picking up three more people along the way, which resulted in a full shuttle, something I'm sure they like.

When I arrived, I was hustled through a different security line. This one went much faster than the line I could see when I walked through the door. Oh the goodness of deciding to download United's cell phone app which allowed me to check in completely, luggage and all, while waiting in line for the Cars ride.

I was able to by-pass a huge line by the front door and speedily get through the first check point. I don't know what benefic I was privy to, but I'd take it. That lasted until I rounded a corner to go to the TSA metal detectors. Um...yeah. As bleary and hungry as I felt, I was ever so glad I had been made to get up at 5 and get to the airport by 7:15 for a 9:30 flight. By the time I got through screening, got some breakfast and made it to my gate, it was time to board. But all benefics stopped once we were on the plane.

There was an issue with a paper copy of our flight report and FAA required paper manuals. Then there was a problem with a defect in one of the cargo sections of the plane. When I finally landed at O'Hare, a confused older gentleman tried to walk off with my luggage, even though a very nice security guard kept telling him the suitcase was mine and not his. My limo driver was nice about the whole thing, once we finally connected, but he was a bit put out when I didn't arrive at the destination point because I was dealing with my luggage.

The biggest benefic was good traffic so the drive home only took 45 minutes. My house was still standing and my cats were waiting.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


The Little Things of Travel

So, I got my ipad for the California trip. One of the hardest thing about adding a new electronic device is suddenly having to figure out all those passwords you have Google remember for you. I decided setting up the ipad was a very good reason to change passwords I've used for years. Even if they are alpha-numeric, someone could, given enough time, crack them, so I needed to update. I'm not that paranoid, mind you, but we'll use the word "prudent". Yes, that's a good word.

The whole point of the ipad was to be able to update my World of Warcraft guild's web site and Facebook pages with photos and information from BlizzCon, the whole reason for going west in the first place. Some sites were easy to update to a new password. It was clear where I had to go and what I had to do. Other sites...

I have a Yahoo account. After I'd found my way onto the Internet with AOL, I quickly moved to ATT/Yahoo when upgrading my phone and Internet. It works adequate and has become my web address of choice for online shopping. But it seemed to need an act of some god and probably a sacrifice of a large number of small animals to get the password changed.

The other issue is that I access personal accounts during lunch at work, so there is my work computer which has access to all my passwords. Add a cell phone and it can be a headache and a half to change passwords, even when it's a good idea. No wonder people don't want to.

Once that was done, and I was only able to get the guild's Twitter account up and running (yes, my WoW guild has quite the social media presence) once I was in California, but everything worked on the ipad exactly as I wanted it to. (Passwords don't work if you write them down wrong, just an fyi there.) I took a large card and wrote all my important passwords on it. I keep it, usually, with the ipad. The card doesn't have my name on it so, even if someone were to steal the ipad, actually getting into the thing (which is password protected) and then finding one's way around, would be more hassle than it's worth. When not in use, I keep the ipad turned off and the card's by my computer. I recently cleaned all the cookies off my main system and had to type in all the passwords for frequently used sites. I have a planner, with all my passwords for places I've gone written in it, but it's a hodge podge of web sites and is on the list of things to clean up in an effort to find my Dunkin' Donuts password when I need to recharge my card; you know, important stuff.

Anyway, I got a hard back for the ipad, to protect it, but what I really needed was a case. If I just stick it in my carry-on, it could get scratched. Looking about, I found the following case from Incase.

I don't see this version on their web site anymore, unfortunately. It came in a variety of colors and I toyed between a royal blue and this color.

My ipad fits snugly inside. There's a layer of foam that goes over the screen and a small silica packet at the bottom of the case to absorb any moisture which might get in. The plastic zipper is crisp and I don't have a problem zipping or unzipping the case. It works wonderfully well and I keep the ipad in it when I'm not using it.

Another item I purchased was this purse, well, clutch, by definition.

The issue for me was I didn't want to be hauling my purse around BlizzCon. The purse is two and a half times the size of this and while it could stow pretty much anything I might want to carry, did I really WANT all that stuff with me? The reality was I wanted something about hand size which wouldn't get in the way. I got it from Target and they still have a few in the price I paid.

I had a difficult time deciding on color. Black goes with everything and the purple was kind of cool, but blue won in the end.

There are so many pockets in this thing. I can sort business into one pocket; receipts and bills and credit cards into another, and change into a third. In the main part of the clutch, there are two sections, which are big enough for my camera and my cell phone. I had to clean out the purse and decide what, exactly, needed to go with me; what was essential. The wrist strap is sturdy and the whole thing is just a bit over the size of my hand. All the time at BlizzCon and Disneyland, I could carry my life with me and know it was safe. It fits in the glove box or center well of the Jeep or under the seat, safely stowed from anyone looking inside.

My original purpose was to use this just for the vacation but I like it so much, it's my purse now. It fits neatly in the top drawer of my desk, now that the junk which was in there has been removed. I've whittled my carrying to just what I need and I'm finding I'm really okay with this.

Lastly, Liz mentioned in an email, we should do what we can to protect ourselves from the onslaught of germs. At the time, I hadn't gotten my flu shot; there hadn't been time to schedule it. Her comment, "If you haven't gotten a flu shot, I recommend it. 25,000 people in reasonably close quarters to each other can pass the crud very fast." Oh that's right. I'll be around people; me, with the compromised immune system. I don't think I've ever picked up the phone faster to call my doctor.

Liz also recommended hand sanitizer. I had some in the Jeep, but, over time, it seems to have dwindled to just a bit in the bottom of the container. Open the top left desk drawer and look what I have.

I happened to have a "few". Took the whole mess with me. These bottles were the perfect size to tuck into my new clutch. I didn't wind up using them as much as I probably could have, but I didn't shake hands with people. I stood next to them. I didn't meet anyone, other than costumed characters, at Disneyland, and I assume Chip and Dale have had their shots.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Sunday, December 27, 2015

I'm Not Afraid -- What Am I Doing Up Here!?

Disneyland. It bills itself as "the happiest place on earth". If I'm going to go to a convention located just down the street from this place, I have to go there, right? If you aren't familiar with Disneyland, it's really two parks; the land itself, and California Adventure, across the plaza. The premise of California Adventure is a recreation of California, Disney-fied, of course, as it was when Walt showed up in the 1920's.

There are, of course, additions to the land which wouldn't, really, be what Walt saw, like Cars Land, from the Pixar movies. But the Main Street buildings bear a resemblance to what one would have seen in Anaheim in the 1920's.

One of the land's big attractions is the pier area, a Boardwalk-ish section with arcade games, similar to a 1920's-era amusement park. It is dominated by a roller coaster and a ferris wheel. You can see both as we walk towards them from the Main Street area towards the pier.

Now, if you know me at all, you know roller coasters are not my thing. There is an exception for Big Thunder Mountain Railway and I really wanted to try the Matterhorn. Supposedly, Space Mountain was based off that and I don't mind Space Mountain; I think, mainly because it's done in the dark. The physics behind roller coasters are clear. They take you up high and drop you in creative ways. Being afraid of heights, the "high" part of that is troubling and, well, the "dropping creatively" can get rather hairy.

As we got closer to the pier area, I got a full view of the coaster.

Wow and um, no, thanks. I'll just sit right over here. Fortunately, Liz was all about shepherding me about the parks to have the best time possible so she really didn't care if I didn't want to go on the coaster. She was staying an extra day beyond me and she has a yearly pass so she can ride this whenever she wants.

I debated. Many years ago, Carole and I went to Navy Pier and rode the ferris wheel there. It's a reasonably enclosed structure of strong metal. I can do this. I got three quarters of the way up and was terrified, so scared I had to close my eyes. It didn't bother Carole at all. I couldn't open my eyes again until we were half-way down. I couldn't get off the thing fast enough.

In my head, the Navy Pier ferris wheel looked much bigger than this one. The views from up there must be fantastic. I love to fly and enjoy looking out the windows at the 25-30,000 feet between me and the ground. It's been years since I was on one of these. Disney wouldn't put any guest in a suspect ride. I was totally safe. How bad could this be?

There are two lines here. If you go to the left, you ride in the usual gondola. If you go to the right, you can ride in a swinging gondola. We watched those. They travel along a track and swing out from the wheel, swaying back and forth. Oh lawd 'o mercy! Not for a million dollars.

We will take the standard gondola, please and thank you. These don't rock.

The car glides to a stop and we get in. The wheel starts and up we go. Suddenly, about a quarter of the way up, my brain, which has largely been in "ohboy ohboy ohboy!" mode, kicks in and says, "What do you think you are doing in this contraption? YOU HATE HEIGHTS!" There is a realization that I am on this ride and getting out is not an option, at least not without extreme humiliation and having to ride all the way around anyway before they can stop the thing and let me off. That familiar twinge of fear I know so well starts to develop in my stomach. Doggoneit. There is no reason to be afraid and yet, terror is growing.

About that time, we clear the height of the trees and I can look out.

To the left is the Grand Californian Hotel. Paradise Pier Hotel is in the center with the Disneyland Hotel to the right. Far off in the distance are mountains. I ask Liz to tell me about this park and the hotels. An admitted "Disney freak", she told me all sorts of tidbits about the hotels and the park. Her excitement was infectious and I felt the terror ease.

It never really left, but I was determined to keep it at bay. A camera with which to document my travels is my best friend at a time like this. I can point it at the view and look at the viewfinder.

Looking down is not so scary when you're looking at the aftermath of pushing the shutter. See, there is just no way I'd be able to ride that coaster unless I was duct taped into the seat and had duct tape over my eyes.

We climbed over the top and headed back down.

This really doesn't give you a feel for the swinging of some of the cars. I think it's the green-bottomed one that is moving around on the extra set of tracks, but I'm not sure. We came down and had one more pass around the wheel. I could feel the fear arguing with my sanity over who was going to win. Sanity won out, I'm happy to report. Fear went to the bottom of my stomach and pouted.

While the cage in this photo is clear, I was aiming for a view of the mountains in the east. Forgot about that focus business.

I had Liz take my photo as documentation of my journey around the ferris wheel.

I know I don't look the happiest for being in "the happiest place on earth". But, I wasn't clutching the seat or the car sides in abject terror and my eyes are open. This is a win.

Three days after getting home, I had to climb a ladder to a vacant floor to take photos during an inspection. I'd done this building in 2014 and had climbed the ladder only to freeze on climbing down. The maintenance man who accompanied me had been ever so calm and spent 10 minutes talking me down out of the deserted 4th floor. All the while I'm doing the post inspection on the occupied floors, I'm hoping, against hope, I don't have to go up. Yeah, well, about that...

Going up has never been a problem, other than the small rungs and climbing being a bit of a problem for my legs and my RA. But up I went and did my documentation. Finished, I went to the ladder. The maintenance man went first to hold the ladder and I climbed right down. Didn't give it another thought. It was only as I was in the stairwell walking down the stairs to go outside, that I realized what had just happened.

There is probably not a chance that I will "outgrow" my fear of heights to the point that roller coasters don't scare the bejeezus out of me. But something has changed. Something, confidence in me, perhaps, has grown so the fear I have long lived with doesn't have to be accommodated to the exclusion of fun.

I was nervous, to be sure, and I recognized that if I didn't come to grips with my fear: win over it, if you will; that this trip would be remembered for my breaking down and screaming to get off the ferris wheel. I couldn't have that. Would I ride this again? In a heartbeat. The view is wonderful. I'd actually like to ride it at night. I'll bet it's doubly gorgeous then.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper



Doing a load of wash today and I found this little guy on the floor.

(Or is it a gal? How does one tell the sex of a caterpillar? Do they have a sex?) I scooped him up, brought him upstairs and dumped him in amongst one of the geraniums. I don't know if geraniums are what he eats, but it's a darned site better than being on the concrete in the basement.

This brings to three wooly bears I've found in the basement this year. Two weeks ago, I found this guy.

I thought one of the cats had left me a "gift" on the floor until I looked closely at it. Brought him upstairs and dumped him onto a geranium.

It's been years since I saw a wooly bear. They used to be ubiquitous in the fall. However, I would imagine as a consequence of habitat destruction, they seemed to disappear. This year, I've seen 4 since October; one outside, up in Wisconsin, and three inside my house, in the basement. I'm also finding stink bugs. I've killed a half dozen since mid-November and found a couple dead ones when I cleaned this weekend.

So this causes me to wonder, are we going to get a warmer than usual winter because insects which would normally die out or hibernate are still active, or are we going to get a colder and harsher winter and they are looking for a warm place to be?

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


I Couldn't Get Away

Liz, Ashley and I stayed at the Best Western Raffles Inn and Suites when we went to BlizzCon. It's one of the official hotels of the convention and we got an amazing deal. We had a two room suite, called the "Family Room". I got there first and claimed the front room.

I would have traded with either of them, if they had wanted the queen-size bed. Liz and Ashley stayed in the back room.

The couch folds out and that is a bunk bed. You could put 6 people in the room. We marked our room with Pepe, a plush orange bird that is featured prominently within the game. That's my Pepe in the window.

Liz put hers there, eventually, too. It was funny to look at the windows in the hotel and see all this Blizzard merchandise displayed. "Oh there's Pepe. Oh there's a zergling," you'd hear people say as if it was the most normal thing in the world to see a stuffed animal in your window.

Once Liz arrived on Wednesday, at around 10:30 p.m. because her flight was delayed, we decided it was just better to head to bed. I went to the "bathroom", which was a space between the two rooms. In the top photo, you can see a door to the left. That's where the toilet and tub/shower were. To the right is where the sink and counter were. Privacy? HA! So, I'm brushing my teeth and I look to the right on the counter and, crap.

There's a junction crack between the counter and the splashboard. No one else would notice this.

I sat down on the bed and told myself I was on vacation. Spotting defects in floors, walls and ceilings is part of my job, a job I was trying to leave behind for a few days. I've been doing this for nearly 16 years. It's hard to turn the job off. I sent this photo to my work colleagues who commiserated with me. "It can be so hard to turn it off," one of them said. "But try to have a good vacation."

I allowed myself, twice a day, to notice the crack between the counter and the splashboard and then told myself that was the only defect I would notice on that day. It seemed to work or I was too busy having fun to notice if there was a crack at the upper left of door 3. Probably a combination of both.

Beverage:  English Teatime


Saturday, December 26, 2015

California Food - Part the First

Particularly when I'm traveling, I like to document my food. You can have very good food and very bad food while on a vacation. The November trip to California and BlizzCon/Disneyland was a case in point.

My gastronomical journey began on November 3rd at O'Hare. I had to get up early to get to the airport in plenty of time to check in so breakfast wasn't going to be an option. Plus, I didn't like the idea of leaving dirty dishes in the sink for 6 days.

Breakfast was two muffins, a banana and hot tea from Great American Bagel, which was right across from my gate.

My first airplane flight was in April of 1982. Back then, you still got free food with your seat purchase. As you know, that's no longer the case. I didn't eat the blueberry muffin before boarding so free tea and the muffin were food about 2/3rds of the way through the flight west.

Upon arriving in California, there was little time to eat. I grabbed my luggage and found the Super Shuttle to my hotel. The trip to the hotel took an hour. Once checked in, I surveyed my surroundings. Liz wasn't to get in until 6:45. We had talked of meeting up with Sparrow and her hubby for a later dinner. It was now 2 and I hadn't eaten anything since about 10:45.

As the shuttle drove down Katela, I noticed a little-seen restaurant in Chicagoland, IHOP. They have, for the most part, shuttered IHOPs in my area. It's sad but I know the one in Wheaton just could not keep servers. It's one of my favorite places to go and I miss it. So seeing one 4 blocks from the hotel was wonderful. I needed food. IHOP it was.

Pumpkin french toast with caramel sauce, sliced bananas and whipped cream. I was in heaven. There were other fall flavors which I thought about coming back to try, but the sheer number of places to eat in the area made a repeat visit impossible. I didn't realize how hungry I was. This is a half order. I had them bring out the rest of the order, it was so good.

Liz's plane was delayed so adding that extra plate of french toast wound up being a godsend. The next day, Thursday, November 4th, we wandered up to Disneyland. Our first stop there was a Starbucks; one of the largest I'd ever seen; for a quick breakfast. We had reservations for lunch, at 1, and the parks didn't open until 10, so there was some time to kill.

I had standard fare of 2 blueberry scones (Delivered in separate bags. Talk about waste.) and hot tea. Liz and I walked around California Adventure the rest of the morning and headed over to Disneyland in the afternoon. We had reservations at Cafe Orleans. There are food carts everywhere including many which sold these.

Leave it to Disney to turn spun sugar into something reasonably attractive.

We went to Cafe Orleans for three things. #1 was the parmesan fries, in the basket at back.

#2 is that Monte Cristo sandwich in the foreground. Liz and I split one sandwich. It was huge! It's served with the most amazing berry sauce. I don't remember the sauce the fries came with but I wound up just eating the fries "naked", they were so good.

The main reason to stop was beignets.

Incredible powdered sugar dusted puffs of air-inflated buttered dough. That's custard sauce at top and the mixed berry jam at the bottom. Oh my heaven. So...so wonderful. Even having a 6 block walk back to the hotel didn't leave us unfull.

Too bad Cafe Orleans is inside the park. I'd consider eating there just because. I had not had a Monte Cristo in a very long time. In case you are unfamiliar with this sandwich, it is cheese, usually swiss, with ham or turkey, sometimes both, dipped in egg batter and fried. Some places will grill the sandwich but the best ones are encased in a thick tempura-type batter. A guild member told me to go get one while I was out there, to which Liz replied, "I made reservations. She WILL have one." The whole meal was stellar.

Ashley arrived in the late afternoon and we went to get our convention badges. That evening, we met up with a guild member and her husband. I was still feeling full from lunch. We debated where to go for dinner and wound up back at Downtown Disney, the location of the Starbucks, for dinner at Rainforest Cafe. Now, I can take or leave Rainforest. There's one north of me, but we just couldn't think of a place in the area to go to with a wide menu and which wouldn't be crawling with BlizzCon people. We wanted to talk. We'd never met Amy and her husband so this was to be a special event. Fortunately, they have a decent a la carte menu.

A bowl of creamy tomato soup, topped with gruyere, and served with spiced cornbread. With hot tea, it was all I needed.

Friday started BlizzCon. In order to be alert and on the ready, we went to Goofy's Kitchen for breakfast. Oh come now. If given a choice, wouldn't you trade a free hotel breakfast for this?

That's their special peanut butter and jelly pizza. (I have the recipe.) The Mickey Mouse mini-waffle at the upper left was not very good; hard and flavorless. Liz said, in all the years she's been coming to this buffet, this was the first thing that was a disappointment. Fruit was in abundance. I'll always go for the fresh fruit.

Fluffy, fluffy scrambled eggs and crispy bacon. Tea and orange juice in abundance.  When we walked in and had our photos taken with Goofy, we were asked if we were celebrating anything. We said, "First visit" and then pointed at Ashley. "Her birthday is Saturday," we said. Liz and Ashley looked at me. "Well, your birthday is close." "Not really. It's Thanksgiving Day. That's not close." The employee shrugged. "Two birthdays! That works!"

Mid-way through breakfast, this arrived, along with wait staff to sing to us.

They set fire to my dessert and sang about it.

I got a "First Visit" and "Birthday" button. I put my World of Warcraft name on the button. On Sunday, when we came back to the parks, I did not wear my birthday button. It was the day after Ashley's birthday and I wanted her to have all the good wishes. Maybe some day I'll go back.

Beverage:  Hot cocoa


California Food - Part the Second

Here we are, standing in front of the entry to BlizzCon. All the saving. All the sacrificing. All the trips to and from have lead to this. Liz has to work in her capacity as a journalist so she leaves Ashley and I to walk through the doors into the convention center. "Trust me on this," says Liz, as we part. "Eat at the food trucks outside and not at any of the convention spots inside. Convention food is nasty."

With this echoing in our ears, we sit through the opening ceremonies. Ashley is meeting a friend for lunch so I wander off to look around. It's now close to 12:30 and there is a panel discussion coming up I want to hear. Food is everywhere at this convention, everywhere. But remembering Liz's comment, I go outside. Holy food trucks, Batman.

Looking toward the convention center, this is part of the trucks on the left. And here is the same spot on the right.

There were at least a dozen behind me. It is a great way to provide food for the 25,000 convention attendees. Add staff and BlizzCon employees and a small city of close to 30,000 develops. There's just no way to have enough hamburgers and hot dogs inside. If you have any sort of dietary restriction, you could find a food truck catering to that. On Friday, after walking up and down and looking at the dizzying array of choices, I settled for a turkey wrap.

Turkey, bacon, cheese, lettuce and a mild sauce in this flavored tortilla. The size is deceptive in the photo. It was cut in half and was bigger than my hand. It was $12.00 with soda. That's the thing about the food trucks. They were not "cheap" by any means. But the sheer size made the amount of food comparable to, say, my usual lunch fare of a Subway foot-long with chips and drink; $10.00. I don't recall what I had for dinner on Friday night. I don't have a photo record of it.

Onward to Saturday. Liz left early so Ashley and I ate the free buffet at the hotel. It was standard stuff; muffins, waffles, cereal, pastries, yogurt, bacon and beverages. She'd not been able to connect with her friend for lunch on Friday so they arranged to meet on Saturday. We did a couple of things in one of the areas of the center and I wanted to see a program starting at 1 p.m. Ignoring Liz's comment about convention center food, I stopped at a stall selling orange chicken.

You know, this was pretty good. The candy bar was 2.5 times what I'd pay in the store, but the orange chicken was only $6.99. I got a bottle of water and picked at it for the next hour during the program. There was almost too much food in the container.

Ashley and I attended a session at 2 and then we split up again. Three thirty California time is 5:30 my time and my Hawkeyes were playing Indiana. I had asked my Facebook friends and family to post updates on the score, since I knew I would be otherwise occupied. I dashed back to the hotel room, popped on the TV and was able to post an article to my guild's web site while watching the last 5 minutes of the game, which Iowa won.

That respite, where I was able to put up my feet, left me energized for one final pass around the convention. I headed back and decided to try my luck with another food truck. I met Ashley; not planned, we just happened to see each other; and decided we'd eat off this truck. The fare looked good. They had bratwurst. Ohboy ohboy ohboy!

How can you go wrong with a solid hunk of sausage. Ashley got a bacon wrapped hot dog.

We got our sausages and sat down.

I don't like sauerkraut which bratwurst is usually served with. But cover it with a good German mustard and I'm deliriously happy. This was awful. I don't know if it was because I'm used to Wisconsin brats, i.e. Milwaukee made, or what it was, but it was just not good. I could only eat half of it. I hated to throw away what amounted to $6.00 for the half I didn't eat, but I just couldn't finish it. That, really, was the only bad meal I had.

On Sunday, we had reservations at Ariel's Grotto for breakfast.

The meal started with hot cocoa and a fruit and pastry basket. We sort of snarfed them up before I could get a photo of the basket.

Suffice it to say this was a hit.

The menu is fixed. You're handed a card and you order off that. It's not buffet. I had waffles this go 'round of breakfast.

That's a muesli mix at the upper right corner with bacon under my waffles. One thing Liz pointed out which I had not realized, every restaurant we went to did not have water out on the table. That's something we take for granted in the Midwest. You sit down and you're brought a glass of water. With Southern California in a terrible drought, that kind of thing wastes a lot of water because you can't just pour it back into the pitcher for the next guests. So water is provided on demand. We were out on the terrace of the restaurant, overlooking a lagoon. We quipped that the waiter would just take a bucket and drop it over the side to haul up water for us.

This was a lovely breakfast. Various Disney princesses wandered through the meal, including Rapunzel, who is Ashley's favorite. While the food was good and the atmosphere nice, I far preferred Goofy's Kitchen and the buffet. I'm glad we had a chance to do both.

The evening meal was a small affair over by the haunted mansion.

Cafeteria style, you grabbed a tray and walked around selecting items from a variety of stations. I got the kids-size pasta because it came with fruit and veggies, and a chocolate cake. Both were adequate. Later, I got a bag of popcorn and ate that while watching the pyrotechnic show and the fireworks. This was okay and a decent value for the cost, but I was tired at this point so the cake seemed dry and somewhat flavorless even though it was chocolate.

The next day was get away day. I grabbed breakfast at the airport; a large blueberry muffin and tea. My flight was delayed getting out of LAX and I couldn't bring myself to pay the price asked for what seemed like substandard fare aboard the aircraft. When I finally got home, I had soup and a ham and cheese sandwich.

Vacation food can be iffy. All-in-all, I had one lousy meal. That's not too bad of a track record for all the times I ate something. Uninspired meals were breakfast at the hotel, at Starbucks, and the final meal at Disney. Adequate meals were Sunday breakfast and breakfast at both airports. The meals that surprised me were the convention chicken, the sandwich on Friday and Thursday's soup at Rainforest. The other meals, Cafe Orleans, Goofy's Kitchen and good ol' IHOP, were amazing. I think I should try to make that peanut butter and jelly pizza. I'll let you know how that goes.

Beverage:  La Croix sparkling water