A Happy and Safe Easter to everyone! From Lex and Neek
Neek sez: Lex, Sar and I would like to wish everyone a very Merry and Safe Christmas! The following are photos from a recent trip to King Gillette Ranch near Malibu, California. It was the one time home of the inventor and seller of the Gillette Safety razor, King Gillette (his actual name). His fame was to create the thin, inexpensive, disposable blade of stamped steel.
The mansion was built in the late 1920’s by renowned architect, Walter Neff. It had changed hands a number of times after Gillette’s death. Once being owned by Bob Hope, Claretian Order of the Catholic Church, Elizabeth Prophet, and Soka University of America who had opposition from the residents of the area on its planned expansion. The residents sought to protect the Chumash ancestral sites as well as the nature habitats and ecology of the area. King Gillette ranch was purchased jointly for $35 million by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, National Park Service, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and California State Parks, who then made it available for public use.
Hope you enjoy it.
It’s the middle of summer. The scorching heat of the southern California sun is driving us crazy. Our normal knee-jerk reaction would be to get out and have fun. But with social distancing measures still necessary in the middle of a pandemic, is fun still possible? Neek, Sar and I set out for Downtown Disney, determined to find out!
Hope everyone is having a wonderful and safe 4th of July at home! Here are some photos of a day trip that we took to Placerita Canyon at “Oak of the Golden Dream” in the Santa Clarita Valley in Southern California. It’s where gold was first discovered in California when it was Mexico’s territory. Francisco Lopez discovered the gold on March 9, 1842 under an old Oak tree. It pre-dates the John Marshall discovery at Sutter’s Mill which was in 1848.
Take care Everyone!
With love from Lex, Neek and Sar. Stay safe and strong!
Neek sez: Okay, we have crappy phones with crappy coverage so we really didn’t think that we could do any of the virtual queuing that Disneyland had required to get a boarding pass for Rise of the Resistance ride at Galaxy’s Edge.
Neek sez: This year I have a lot to be thankful for including not having to cook for Thanksgiving. We decided to have our meal at Norm’s Restaurant which is having it’s 70 birthday this year.
Yes, it was crowded and yes the food wasn’t as good as what you make at home but being with your favorite people makes it all worthwhile. Lex definitely didn’t complain about any dishes to wash this year.
We would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!
Lex sez: Ever since I was six years old when I first saw Star Wars on the big screen, I’ve wanted to have my own lightsaber. Watching Obi-Wan Kenobi battle Darth Vader, there was something magical about their duel with blades of light. I tried to re-enact that scene, as well as the battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.
I would use cardboard shaped like tubes to pretend I was a Jedi Knight. When Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, I got a wonderful Christmas present of a lightsaber. This was an improvement over cardboard: it was a plastic tube fit over a flashlight where you could insert colored gels to change the color of your lightsaber. My sisters and I had lots of fun playing with that.
The desire for a lightsaber faded to the background as I grew older. But it reignited this year with the opening of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland. I found out that within the town of the Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu, there is a place called Savi’s Workshop. At Savi’s, you don’t just buy a lightsaber, the workers there help you create your own personalized lightsaber. I had heard the experience was almost like a ceremony. Suddenly that desire from childhood was back: I had to create my own lightsaber!
It’s important to note you can’t just walk in unannounced to Savi’s asking to make a lightsaber. There is a specific process. First, you have to make a reservation. This can be done online through the Disney website or through the Disney app on a smartphone. I opted to set up the reservation on their website the week prior to going. Fortunately, they do allow you to bring two guests, so Neek and Sar would be able to watch and film me creating my personal Jedi weapon.
When you arrive at the Black Spire Outpost, you can’t just ask for Savi’s Workshop. Neek, Sar and I observed multiple stormtroopers from the First Order interrogating other guests and I had heard that Savi was operating his place in secrecy so the First Order would not be aware of his illegal activity. So I asked a cast member, when there were no stormtroopers within earshot, if she could direct us to a place that made “scrap metal.” She understood “scrap metal” is a code for Savi’s Workshop and took me into her confidence and directed us where to go.
Once I checked in at the front desk outside Savi’s to confirm the reservation, I was shown designs for the different kinds of lightsaber hilts I could design. There are four kinds: Peace and Justice, Power and Control, Elemental Nature and Protection and Defense. I chose Elemental Nature, so my saber would reflect what Obi-Wan Kenobi said about the Force, that it is “an energy field created by all living things.” Once I made my choice, I was given a pin to wear to show the workers inside that I had chosen Elemental Nature.
After we went inside Savi’s, one of the workers, who call themselves the “Gatherers,” walked into the center of the room and explained that Savi gathers parts for lightsabers from around the galaxy.
After showing one of the Gatherers my Elemental Nature pin, I put together my hilt. I was really impressed with the quality of the materials: it not only looked realistic, it felt realistic! I particularly liked the piece I chose for the end of my hilt, which the Gatherer told me was the tooth of a Rancor. Then we selected a Kyber Crystal, which is determines the color of your lightsaber. I chose green, in tribute to Luke Skywalker!
Once that was done, we placed our lightsaber into a special chamber on the work bench. Suddenly, the lights dimmed. Slowly, the room was bathed in green light and the spirit of Yoda entered the room, praising our efforts to keep the Jedi hope alive! We were then told to activate our lightsaber. I pressed the button on my hilt and raised my very own fully activated lightsaber! I was ecstatic waving it in front of Neek and Sar. Some might say $212.00 is a bit pricy, but for the quality of the lightsaber and the amazing experience of making it, I say it was well worth it!
Lex has often told me about how he went to see Star Wars as a child with his grandmother when it was first released in 1977. To a little boy, it was a transcendental experience that has endured to the present.
Disneyland has done a great job in bringing this film universe to reality. The details of the planet Batuu where Black Spire Outpost exists is quite amazing. The droids, ships, buildings are all scaled to realistic proportions and the skyline blends in well with the texture and color of the surroundings. It does seem like you are in another world.
We arrive at about 8:30 AM and decide that it’s not really that early to have a drink so we visit Oga’s Cantina for a quick one. Lex orders a Fuzzy Tautaun which is has alcohol and a special ingredient makes your tongue a little numb – this is favorite drink of the famous space smuggler, Hondo Ohnaka. Sar and I share a Hyperdrive Punch that has no alcohol but we steal sips from the Tauntaun.
Sar wanted to build a droid so we went to the Droid Depot where a wonderful Batuuan, Maria helped her to build a BB8 model.
Next, we were off to Doc Ondar’s Den of Antiquities where strange beasts and their unfortunate heads were on display.
Sar, Lex, and I did ride Smuggler’s Run where they shared the position of being a pilot. My job was a gunner and had fun shooting lasers to defend the Millennium Falcon and our bacon. As we left the ship, we could see evidence of the Imperial Force around the area. As you can see in our video, the stormtroopers were constantly harassing visitors.
The time flew by and it was time for Lex to build a light saber. I will leave that blog post for him to write.
Last year Lex, Sar and I wanted to go to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disneyland but were too late to purchase the tickets as the event was sold out.
Fast forward one year later, we finally get our tickets and find that the event is not at Disneyland park but at Disney California Adventure. Imagine the disappointment we had when we found that the venue was changed. We figured that it was probably because of the opening of Galaxy’s Edge.
No one knew what to expect except that there would still be treat trails and the headless horseman appears at the start of the parade.
I can assure you that this event did not disappoint one bit. We had a wonderful time and saw the most beautifully creative walk through that we have ever been and an amazing water show, “Villanous”. There were character photo spots everywhere including Goofy and Donald Duck from Kingdom Hearts – they even let you hold the key while taking a photo.
We experienced childhood delights by walking the treat trails and meeting with the famous villains of Disney animation fame. Our host Oogie Boogie was especially memorable.
With our treat bags filled with candy galore and our feet about to fall off, we reluctantly headed for the exit. What a fun night and hopefully more will occur in the following years. We can honestly convey that Oogie Boogie Bash was a hit!
The following are some tips that we found helpful if you are attending this first fright event.
Beginning at 3PM, Disney California Adventure will allow guests with their Oogie Boogie Bash tickets to enter the park. Inside they will scan your ticket and distribute wristbands.
Trick or Treating
Every guest of the Party, children and adults, will be handed a trick or treat bag upon entering the park. You’re also welcome to bring your own bag, but considering the massive amount of treats given, I would at least bring an extra heavy duty canvas bag or backpack. There will be 10 treat stations (11 if you are an annual passholder) around the park with special banners marking the entrances. Each treat station has several treat carts giving you the goodies. These are on the Oogie Boogie Bash Halloween party map as black cauldrons.
The lines for the trick or treating are rarely long. We don’t really recommend doing the treats at the end of the night as others have encouraged because we have not seen them giving out more later. If pressed for time, try working in your candy collection when you see a short line on the way to another activity and mark it off on the map so you can visit it later.
There is no limit to the candy collection. You are allowed to visit the treat lines as often as you wish. Although we only went once to each treat line, believe us when we say that they are generous with the treats.
The parade starts in the Paradise Gardens area of the park (near Silly Symphony Swings) and makes its way past the Little Mermaid ride, the main entrance to Cars Land, through Carthay Circle, in to Hollywood Land, and ends next to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout. The exact parade route is noted on the Oogie Boogie Bash Halloween party park map. About 10 minutes before each parade at 8pm, the Headless Horseman will ride down the parade route.
Obtain a spot for the parade at least 30 minutes ahead of time. Frightfully Fun Parade is popular and there’s only one showing per a party so you don’t want to miss it.
World of Color: Villainous runs at 9:00 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. The show lasts about 22 minutes. Good vantage points can be had anywhere along Paradise Bay in front of The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. Viewing for World of Color is standing only, there’s no seating available. Be sure to arrive around 30 minutes early if you want a good spot with an unobstructed view.
What we did
Now, I will tell you how we did our visit (Keep in mind that this is just showing what we did and do not recommend it for everyone because our priorities for experiencing the bash will different from yours):
- We ate before the bash began because we knew we wouldn’t have time to see all that we wanted to see and eat also.
- First, we went inside the Stage 17 treat trail and saw Dr. Facilier
- Afterwards we proceeded to The Animation treat trail to see Oogie Boogie himself.
- Down the road we went to The Hyperion Theatre treat trail and met with a very Mad Hatter
- Next we went to Cars Land and went to the two treat trails there.
- By this time, we decided to find a spot for the Frightfully Fun Parade near The Little Mermaid ride.
- After the parade we proceeded toward Paradise Gardens Park where we encountered another treat trail and visited AP Corner for the special magnet, button, and extra treats.
- Getting back to the pier, we found that we were just in time to see Villanous
- After the spectacular water show, we walked over to Grizzly Peak to visit Villains Grove. Now, that was worth the price of the ticket!
- There was another treat trail down the road where The Evil Queen was making a potion for her poisoned apples.
- Another treat trail was near Soarin’ where Maleficent was being evil.
- Finally, the last treat trail was Buena Vista Street where we were heading out of the park.
We got out of the park at 10:30PM, beat the crowds and headed for the tram and parking garage.
Our priorities were to see the shows and hit the treat trails and Villains Grove. We didn’t do any of the photopasses or ate any of the special Halloween menu items but we did try the delicious Minnie Witch Shake and the Rest in Peace-Strami Fries before the bash got started. They were filling and kept us going all night! We really wanted to see The Descendance but just couldn’t fit it in. Maybe, next time. We had a blast and hope to do it again in the future.
Note: Photopass downloads are included for free with Oogie Boogie Bash Halloween Party tickets. You can start joining in the photopass 3 hours prior to the Oogie Boogie Bash when event participants are allowed into the park.