I finally had a chance to see Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The one word to describe it is immersive. Every aspect of TSL is themed to perfection. Every structure is designed to look like they have been built by a child with favorite toys. Tinker Toy towers support strings of Christmas tree lights. The trash cans? Legos. Green Army Men stroll the sidewalks, posing for impromptu photos. Some places are made to look like cardboard play sets, with visible assembly instructions if you look at the right spot.

All this I put down to Disney’s usual attention to detail. The thing that really staggered me, however, were the giant statues that talk. Woody greets visitors as they enter TSL. Buzz fires off his trademark space jargon near the Alien Swirling Saucers, while the three-eyed aliens make gleeful sounds on the ride. Jesse and Rex carry on conversations with each other while perched atop the Slinky Dog Dash. As Slinky Dog himself zooms by, you can hear him making “Whoa!” and “Ooooh” noises.

I was expecting the decor, and things like the kid-friendly counter service restaurant made to look like a lunch box. But the sounds and voices that surround you really sell the idea that you are in a child’s room among living toys.

Unfortunately, yesterday was drizzly while we were at the Studios, and my photos are less than dazzling. I’ll include some better ones in a future post.

Do you live near a university? Don’t assume that if you are not a student, that they have nothing to offer you.

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Easter Blessings

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,

Praise Him, all creatures here below,

Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts,

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.


I had planned today’s post to be a joyous celebration. After being without a computer for several months, I’m finally back and raring to go on my blog. It feels so good to be back at my keyboard.

But I can’t be too happy today, because of the news from Paris. I haven’t discussed it much on the blog, but I am a great lover of art and of historic buildings. I actually collect floor plans from famous buildings. So the fire at Notre Dame is heartbreaking.

I am not Catholic, but one doesn’t have to be to recognize the importance of the cathedral to religion, history, and art. The news this morning is better than it was last night, when video made it appear that nothing would be left but a smoking pile of ashes and cinders. The bell towers are still standing. Many art works and artifacts were saved. I have seen articles saying that the rose windows and the pipe organ may be salvageable. And there is already a large fund donated towards restoring the building. But it is still a loss to the world, and my prayers are with France and all who love Notre Dame.

Poor Husband and I have declared war on our house. We have lived here for over twenty-five years, and it shows.

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Yes, my friends, it’s that time of year again.  When we all swear to lose weight, organize our lives, get in shape and just generally stop floating through life.

Like most people, I’ve tried to have New Year’s resolutions.  The problem with them, though, is that we try to fix everything at once.  So here is my suggestion – only have one resolution at a time.

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Crazy Algorithms

More and more our lives are being controlled by mathematical calculations.  Algorithms determine the results we get from search engines, the ads we see on the internet, the posts we see on Facebook.

They are also the only thing that explains the very unsuitable videos that are recommended to me on Youtube.  First, I have to explain that I watch a strange variety of things on Youtube.  True crime, bizarre history, the supernatural, Disney park information, oddball humor and so forth.

There are some subjects, however, that I never watch.  So why, after watching a video about haunted castles in Scotland, does Youtube start pushing British soccer videos? I never watch sports.

I see my favorite humor channel has a new video and immediately click.  The host also makes gaming videos.  The next time I go to Youtube, my recommendations are flooded with Fortnite.

Watch a Disney ride?  Youtube decides I want to see roller coasters.  Not the same thing.  Watch a video about the wonderful Sherlock Holmes actor Jeremy Brett?  I am suddenly awash in that awful Will Ferrell movie.  Watch a trailer for a movie I actually do want to see, and I’m drowned in celebrity gossip.

But I have to ask myself… do I actually want the algorithms to get better?  Do I want the internet to know me and my tastes?  On one side is convenience, on the other… hmmm.




There has been quite a bit of news lately about criminals being identified because one of their relatives sent their DNA test results to one of the many growing public DNA databases.  For those who don’t know, these databases are open for anyone to try to find family connections using DNA.  This is especially useful for people who were adopted or somehow lost contact with relatives.  The most famous of the criminal cases is the arrest of Joseph DeAngelo, suspected to be the Golden State Killer.

It occurred to me that these databases could do more than find criminals.  They could solve mysteries.  Gentle readers, let me tell you about the tragedy of the Sodder children.

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Memento Mori

I know several people who are very much into genealogy and love tracking down their family histories.  Everyone knows about the big name genealogy sites, but I would like to point my readers to a site with a different twist – FindaGrave.com.  It has records and photos of thousands of graves.

Now, this might sound a bit morbid.  But I became interested in graves as a family history tool years ago when I accidentally found the grave of a long lost relative.  My mother’s family had a tradition of making a yearly trip to the various cemeteries where our loved ones had been buried to put fresh flowers and plants on the graves (some of the graves had planters built into the headstones).  During one trip when I was an older teen or college age, while my mother, grandmother and aunt were discussing something I wasn’t interested in, I roamed the graveyard looking at interesting headstones.  I came across a name that seemed familiar, and asked my mother if we were related to that person.

They were amazed.  The grave belonged to a relative who had cut herself off from the rest of the family decades earlier over an inheritance dispute. (She was in the right, in my opinion.)  But no one had known what had become of her.  Now, through my accidental find, they had information they could use in discovering the whereabouts of her own family.

I was dismayed when I discovered that FindaGrave does not have records of those cemeteries I spent so many hours in while growing up.  The one where my recently deceased father is buried is not on it.  Unfortunately, they are hundreds of miles away.  But first chance I get, I’m taking a road trip with my camera.


It’s Meat Day!

Part of my budget-stretching efforts included finding a good butcher shop.  A lot of people don’t realize that there are places like the Tampa Steak Company around.  Most of their business is wholesale to restaurants, small grocers and catering companies, but they also have a retail counter.

I have a medium-sized chest freezer, and with my family keeping it full is a job in itself.  My butcher shop really helps with that.

Yesterday’s purchases –

40 lb box of boneless chicken breasts – $44

40 lb box of chicken leg quarters – $18

10 lbs of end cut pork chops at $1.59 a pound

15 lbs of hamburger (admittedly high fat) at $1.49 a pound.

I spent $103 dollars, and have over a hundred pounds of food to show for it.  Today I am breaking it up into meal-sized packages and stowing it away.  I love seeing a full freezer!

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