Weekly Photo Challenge: Magic

For this week’s challenge, find some magic, and charm us with it.

I followed the dewy fragrance and stumbled upon the garden. It twinkled and rustled. And then I heard a faint splash. A melodic squeaking filled the air. Yes, it squeaked but it had a fullness. What could it be? I knelt for a closer look.


Closer still. This is what I saw.


I couldn’t believe my eyes. There he was. The golden fairy bug, blowing some sweet sounds on his sax. I could really hear him now. Man, he could play. 

Here’s the full view of the fairy garden. I’m sure he wasn’t alone.


Ah, it was magical.

See more magic by visiting the Weekly Photo Challenge site.

Pass the Gravy…Please


Thanksgiving, a time to give thanks and, let’s face it, a time to stuff our faces. The Thanksgiving meal is one you can screw up. It’s no accident that there are a dozen side dishes that accompany the turkey. We can’t just have turkey, mashed potatoes, and some green beans. No!

We must have sweet potatoes, too, with gooey marshmallow sweetness. The green beans must be lathered in a funky mushroom sauce with fried onions. It’s the only time this dish appears on any menu. I wouldn’t touch that dish when I was a kid. There’s stuffing prepared in all manner of ways, with fruits and nuts and sausages, which don’t belong by the way, especially with raisins. This is truly unthinkable. The cranberry sauce, of course, gets pecked at. A few people bother with it. Hot rolls, salad, another salad, veggies, olives, bread pudding, corn, cornbread, a mystery casserole. Just make sure there’s not one free space on the table and you’ve succeeded.

In fact, it’s this time of year that you’ll use that second oven you have. Yes, you need a second oven on Thanksgiving. Not that I’ve ever had one. Everything revolving around the grand turkey. Everything must be timed just right and be presented on the table, piping hot, ready to be devoured. Sometimes, in all this lengthy preparation, the turkey is neglected or its cooking time miscalculated and the near disaster of your meal has happened and there’s no possibility of undoing it. Your turkey is dry and tastes like pasty cardboard. All that hard work and thoughtful planning, a wasted effort.

There’s only one thing, and one thing only that can salvage this meal: The Gravy! Delicious gravy with perfect smoothness and consistency can transform a Thanksgiving meal from ordinary to extraordinary. Whether your turkey is dry or cooked to perfection, your side dishes cold or rewarding, the gravy will bring a mix of elation and pause to your family and guests.

The gravy comes together in the final hour; in my mother’s kitchen, a time of great mystery and tension. How would it turn out this year? Would it be as good as last year? Would it be a disaster? With lots of stirring, salt, pepper, water, flour, milk, and last but not least, a little magic and artistry, gravy is served.

After much rustling and passing, sometimes around two tables, a kids’ table when younger, my family and friends get situated, all the waiting for the meal has taken its toll, and finally, a full plate of food. The final touch is the gravy, of course, generous ladles of gravy.

A hush envelopes the room, conversation slows. Then you’ll hear, “Mom, this is good gravy. Reeaaallly good.” Everyone agrees and everyone wants more. The gravy is passed around until, “Is this the last of the gravy?” If you’re lucky, there’s more on the stove. Otherwise, well…Thanksgiving might as well be over. I decide I don’t really want that third helping of mashed potatoes after all. Better save room for pie.

I never learned how to properly make gravy. In the times that I’ve made the complete Thanksgiving dinner, the gravy has been hit or miss, and never as good as my mother’s. Oh, I should have paid more attention. Gravy, I took you for granted. My mother does not cook the Thanksgiving meal anymore, and she shouldn’t. I have a feeling from here on out, my sisters and I will be comparing notes in our mission to make gravy like we remember.

Photo credit: theguardian.com

The Magic That is Disneyland

I cut off my arms, my legs, and cashed in my IRA. Okay kids, now we’re ready to experience the magic that is Disneyland. It is a one-of-kind thematic landscape, home of Tinker Bell, Dumbo, even the late Michael Jackson has an attraction. I wanted to take my two boys before they were teenagers, anticipating a challenge even though they might seem an ideal age. My ten-year-old, a thrill seeker of the scariest roller coasters, and my seven-year-old, a more gentle spirit, are at complete extremes. No matter, I knew Disneyland would be special, and I was curious how their experience would stack up to my e-ticket, childhood memories.

Naturally, lines are part of this magical experience. A line awaits you to secure entrance into the park, followed by lines for photos with princesses and photos of your family…you get the idea. There are hoards of people and moments when it is best to attempt a zen space and wait until traffic passes. But fear not, at Disneyland everything is a matter of minutes. Hours…you can do the math if you like.

Lots of standing, lots! Okay, so this photo is really a mistake. You caught me.
Lots of standing, lots! Your legs feel like magic by the end. I’m not kidding.

If you are organized enough to download a trusty phone app that forecasts the wait times of popular rides, you believe that you are savvy. In reality, the phone app is highly inaccurate, with the actual wait times usually being less than stated. This, I can live with.

Don't despair. It's only 85 more minutes, not 110.  It will be a snap!
Don’t despair. It’s only 85 more minutes, not 110. It will be a snap!

Our first ride was the Pirates of Caribbean, one of my all time favs! My seven-year-old fought it the whole way, dragged through the line against his wishes. I was so certain he would think it magical. He managed to sit through the entire ride…if he didn’t he would have thrown himself into the swampy bayou. In the end, he stated, “I hated it.” Perhaps, he didn’t like all the periods of complete darkness. Yes, it is a dark ride. What Disneyland lacks in daring drops and backward loops of say more generic “scary” roller coasters, it more than makes up for in atmosphere, in theme, in song, in presentation.

Just look at this temple surrounded by magnificent bamboo.
Just look at this Indiana Jones Temple surrounded by magnificent bamboo.

As you go down, down, deeper into the temple, you’ve lost all perspective of how long the line is, wrapping around and around. How’s that for enchantment? Many of the big rides are built into some kind of mountain with dark tunnels.

This is probably why my youngest opted for lighter offerings, such as the Monorail and It’s a Small World, eschewing the Fantasyland characters of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, much to my disappointment. After my oldest son rode It’s a Small World, he developed pediophobia, a fear of dolls. My seven-year, old, languishing in this new knowledge, taunted his older brother by singing “It’s a Small World” in his presence every chance he got.

My son on It's a Small World...Is this little boy not filled with magic?
My younger son on It’s a Small World. Is this little boy not filled with magic?

After five times on this ride (only a ten minute wait!), I noticed that not all of these dolls are created equal in this small world. Some do not have moving faces, and some are, indeed, still. A few looked like place holders for what I’m sure would be the real “moving, automaton doll” at a later date. The giant, purple panda? Perhaps, a school project. Woody and Jesse? Really? I mean, aren’t they like cash cows for you, Disney? Does Toy Story ring a bell? I know it’s not a shortage of funds or time. My ticket could probably pay for a doll with moving parts and it could be swapped out in no time.

This is the closest we got to Mickey...we waited and waited, like forever, at his house.
This is the closest we got to Mickey…we waited and waited, like forever, at his house.

The real Disney magic is its employees, who make it the happiest place on earth, always service with a smile. This is even true for the clean-up crew, white-clothed and white-gloved. I’ve seen them up close and personal. Friends, on our last ride, the glorious Splash Mountain, we had a fast pass that allowed us to sail through plentiful minutes worth of wait time. See you suckers! Yeah, we’re organized. We organized our whole day around it, in fact. Throughout the ride, my sister exclaimed over and over, “This is torture, torture, TORTURE,” because she was a wee bit frightened. Oh, she had no idea.

My stomach was tossing and turning, I thought I might heave before I had even got on the ride. You know that feeling before you know you’re to be sick; you convince yourself otherwise. With each passing minute, you tell yourself, you’re farther away from the possibility of sickness. I’m better, I feel better. Definitely not now, knowing full well, it’s going to happen. Oh, yes! But not on this ride…I made it through the singing chickens, rabbits, frogs, whatever they were, the bumping boats, the bursts of mist…or maybe I had lost it by then. Once off the ride, I made a beeline to the shuttle bus, and sat down for twenty seconds, before the moment had arrived.

I ran outside and threw up all my stomach’s contents by a trash can. It was violent, wretched, painful even, and went on far too long, so long, that a Disney employee was there waiting to clean up before I was even finished. This is high on their list of priorities. My sister consoled me, telling me, “Everyone on the bus was so concerned about you.” My husband corrected her, “No. They were horrified.” My son, in fact, came to either comfort or witness the act, and ran off with his mouth covered, “Oh, my God.” I spared you a picture, as I was not in the mood to take one.

The next day, I saw the same dedication of Disney staff when a little girl barfed outside the Pirates ride. This is behind the scenes magic, cleansed and disinfected before you ever knew such vileness touched the surface. When my sister fell on the train tracks, the white-clothed arrived in a heartbeat, offering an ice pack. Personally, I think my sister should have asked for an ice cream cone, one of those $6 ones; that would have promoted quicker healing.

The day after what I determined was a food poisoning attack, I succumbed to the darkness, the darkness that was Space Mountain, and this guy. Who knew they had a Training Academy here.

The Dark Lord
Had I known you’d be here, I would have dressed up or something.

After Tinker Bell fluttered among the fireworks, probably the best I’ve seen, my child beamed at me, “Can we come back?” Of course, how can we not? Next time, I’ll probably drink more water.