Thursday, December 18, 2014

It's Christmas! - Austin's Trail of Lights and Why It's Been So Quiet Around Here

Well, there aren't many days left till Christmas. Heck, a week, to be exact. And y'all are probably wondering why I haven't been posting awesome Christmas posts like crazy! Well, I'll tell ya. Remember a while back, when I mentioned that my computer was hit hard with viruses and was going to need a complete restore to factory condition? Well, I postponed that and postponed it until the day came that I had no choice, because the computer we use here had become completely useless. I was barely able to copy my most recent files to a hard drive before restoring everything.

Then, the big test. I tried to startup the computer again. Seemed fine, Windows 7 was loading up, and then... Startup Repair! Windows Startup Problem Cannot Be Fixed! I had no idea what to do. I'm not a techie. Is that how you spell it? Anyway, I luckily still had the net on my iPhone. Alas, I eventually came to the conclusion that I would have to buy a new computer. Then, I realized, maybe I just needed to reinstall windows. Unfortunately, this would take some time if I wanted to wait for Dell to send me a disc, because the computer came with Windows pre-installed and no disc for these such emergencies. I couldn't wait. I wanted to do at least a few posts before Christmas for you guys! So, I ended up buying Windows 8.1, even though I wasn't sure if this was even going to work.

Happily, it did, and the computer is like new again! I reinstalled a few programs and everything, for now, is hunky dory. To a degree. There was one problem...

The last files I saved off the computer, my photos and videos from the various events I'd attended over the past several weeks since Halloween, which I'd hoped to share with all you guys, were completely unreadable! This was a treasure trove of images and footage from my visits to Texas's big RenFest in Plantersville and Austin's Trail of Lights, and I don't even remember what else. It was some great stuff, and yeah, it's all gone. I researched and researched, but they could not be saved. Luckily, I still have a few images from these events due to a few postings by my sister and myself on various social media. Some of the best stuff though, did not make it, such as my picture with the Celtic Santa at RenFest, which I am soooo upset about! I'd wanted to take a picture with Santa Claus badly in recent years, and I finally did with a super cool one, and I didn't even get to see it myself! I hear it came out great.

Oh, well. All this stressful trouble with the computer and my photos lately certainly slowed me down, and there isn't a lot of time left. There's so much I've been wanting to write about during the holidays. I don't know what I will squeeze in before Christmas. I've got a lot of other stuff to deal with too, and I won't even be here for the entire time. Gonna visit Seattle for a couple days. Mainly just long enough to see the final performance of the Pacific Northwest Ballet's awesome Maurice Sendak-styled Nutcracker made famous by Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (that's not the Macaulay Culkin one, but a slightly older one from 1986), and to stay in the same hotel room the Beatles stayed in. I'll go into that more when I get back though. As for what I wanted to write about and might not get to entirely cover (we'll try, but you know...), well, there's the Trail of Lights, which I'm going to talk about in a moment, and the Renaissance Festival, Thanksgiving, some Holiday-themed cereal reviews, a quick look at the toys I personally am currently obsessed with collecting, a look at my trip to New York last September, a bit about some recent holiday Quote-Alongs I attended at the Drafthouse in November and December, and a return to my long promised Disney World trip articles about last Christmas's big vacation! Also was going to do some Holiday-themed Crush of the Weeks, new strips and who knows what else! Oh, and last weekend I went to Brian Setzer's Christmas Rocks Extravaganza! One heck of a holiday concert! Some of this stuff I'll definitely get to, I just don't know what will get left out or, at best, posted late. I figure I have at least until New Year's though, right? I also was hoping to catch up with some really old art commissions that I feel really guilty about. I WILL, I just hoped I would have gotten that done already by now. Crummy viruses!

Anyway, that's the sitch as it's been so far. Before I talk about Austin's "Trail of Lights" though, let me quickly say that Thanksgiving here was very nice indeed. My sister brought my mom up to visit us, and we all enjoyed a full on feast with a gorgeous turkey, stuffing, corn, beans, broccoli, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, croissants and cornbread, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and apple pie. The three of us had a lovely, candlelit dinner to some Harry Connick, Jr., and watched some great movies and cartoons typical of the day. In other words, Charlie Brown, Garfield, and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, ha. Sadly, no parade for us since we only have DVDs, Blu-Rays, and YouTube and Netflix in our apartment. We don't dare try finding the parade on torrents or anything with all our virus trouble of late. And I did have to work that day, but I got off early at least. Normally, we'd watch Miracle on 34th st. in the evening, the original of course, but this year we haven't gotten to that holiday classic at all yet! Soon though, I'll make sure of it. Here's a pic I salvaged off instagram...

You know that's my plate, because there's nothing green on it. It's my favorite color, but I don't like to eat it often. Ha, I do eat Caesar salad, but who has room for that on Thanksgiving! There's so much better stuff to eat!

Oh, check out these ginormous pies from H.E.B.! Though, we usually just get Mrs. Smith's pumpkin and apple (and we got those too). Really need to learn to make these from scratch someday though. I probably have made apple pie before, but not pumpkin or pecan!

Anyway, that was our Thanksgiving, and it was a nice one. We did a lot since then, up to our most recent events, the Setzer Christmas concert and two Drafthouse Quote-Alongs. But, I'll talk about those another time. Tonight, I wanna talk about Austin's "Trail of Lights" holiday activity in Zilker Park.


I'm not going to talk too long about this, but rather, let the images do most of the talking. If you're a fan of the holiday season (I'm a nut for it myself), you probably enjoy colorful lights and character displays on lawns and other places. Maybe you've seen theme parks or other places royally decked out as well. The Austin Trail of Lights is no slouch in this department. It is, just as it sounds, a long trek past and under tons of beautiful lights and colorful displays that really do put one in a festive spirit. There are scenes, one after the other, of familiar characters and clever concepts, from Beauty and the Beast and Dr. Seuss to the Nativity and the magic of condensation (yes, one display was a scientific look at rainfall). You can enjoy some free cider in a tunnel of lights, visit Candyland and pick up a sweet treat from a cute elf, meet and take your picture with Santa Claus and get a free coloring book, or enjoy some live entertainment and food from one of the many booths along the trail. It's an excellent place to visit for a highly entertaining and festive stroll with family or friends, or even by yourself.

The only pain in the butt is parking. You can pay in advance to park in a special parking lot right nearby, or you can park a distance away and trek out to the park. We parked in a church parking lot. I believe we had to pay to park, but I forget how much.

The activity itself can be free if you visit on the right days. Specifically, weekdays, Monday through Thursday. On the weekends, the fee is $3. It's well worth the cost though, and as that is for 13 and over, I'm guessing under 13 may get in free. The first day was also free to all, even though it was a Sunday, and that's the night my mother, sister and myself attended. The final night for this year will be on the 21st (this Sunday), so you still have time to check out this awesome festivity, including one night left to get in free. I do hear it gets pretty crowded though. It was crowded when we went, but not at all to an intolerable point. No idea how it is now.

Amazingly, this is the 50th anniversary of the Trail of Lights. Hard to believe it has been around so long! I also hear this is the first year a fee is being charged. Though, again, it is well worth it.

Before or after you walk the trail, there is also an area of booths for food and shopping inside a giant Christmas tree made up of lights. We started our evening there. My sister bought an Alpaca fur poncho from a cute Ukraine girl working in a Peruvian themed shop, and we sampled some hot chocolate from one of the stands. Don't drink the hot chocolate. It must have been made with some NASTY water. There's also a lighted Ferris Wheel nearby for those so inclined. We were tempted, but the trail  and shopping took up all of our time. It was a wonderful evening.

Enjoy the pics below. They are what I was able to salvage from various social media after the computer virus I recently dealt with destroyed my main folder full of recent events. I had more backups of this night than of the trip to the RenFest I'll tell you about later. However, I took tons of photos of almost every display at the Trail of Lights, and there are far more than what you see here. For example, there was a penguin themed display that looked very Disney Three Caballeros inspired. My sister just loved it and I'd taken several pictures, but they didn't make it. Still, there's some good stuff here to surely help you decide if you'd like to visit the Trail of Lights this year or some season in the future. Again, I highly recommend it!

See ya next time!

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