Vacation to the magical world of Harry Potter! – part 2

I ran out of time and energy last night.  Here’s the rest of the vacation story. :)

Days one and two.

Day Three: Islands of Adventure

After waking up early for the early park admission deal, then staying out very late the night before, we decided to not set an alarm this morning.  Alan decided he wanted to go to the gym for awhile, so I took the kids to Islands of Adventure, with a stop at Voodoo donuts first!

We took the water taxi to the donut shop while Alan went to the gym. We enjoyed it, but keep that in mind if I start complaining about how awful I look in all of these pictures!! #consequences

Voodoo Donuts. This place had soooooooo many options. We were pretty overwhelmed!

Voodoo Donuts had so many options.  There was a rotating display of all of the donuts (display ones, not the ones you actually buy) and even after watching that for awhile we couldn’t make up our minds! We ended up going with a cake donut, a jelly filled donut, a blueberry donut, and… a glazed donut. Then we split them all and shared.  :)

Off to find Spiderman!

First stop in Islands of Adventure was Super Hero Island.  Turns out it’s called Islands of Adventure, because each section of the theme park is considered its own “island.”  Not that they are actual islands in any way, you just walk from one themed area to the next, noting the signs in the pavement telling you when you’re entering a new island. :)

We went on the Spiderman 3D ride (Eve’s favorite!), bought some churros (it’s a Spiderman thing), ate a terrible lunch at the Comics cafe on Toon Island, explored Jurassic Park island, then met up with Alan. He and Eve did the Spiderman ride again then we all headed back to Hogsmeade to see what it looked like in the daytime.

Hogwarts

Danger: Book May Bite!

Notice the tongue is not coming out of the mouth. They did a good job on this “book.”

By this point we were all exhausted again and ready to head back to the hotel, but not without a visit to Seussville first!

We took a silly Sneeches ride which gave us a view of the whole of Seussville.

Circus McGurkus up ahead.

Sylvester McMonkey McBean and his money making machine. I was really hoping we get stars on our bellies, but sadly, we did not.

Then back to the hotel for some downtime. The kids grabbed devices, I grabbed a book, and Alan grabbed a towel and headed to the pool to sunbathe. :)  After awhile we met up again at the pool and had a little snack.  I’m not normally a foodie photographer, but I had to take a picture of this meal:

They had tofu available as a topping! I was not expecting that!

Eve got a smoothie that came with a gummy fish on top. She was thrilled! She decided to keep it for a pet… until we made her throw it away a few days later. :)

Then we decided to head back to the parks so we could try taking the Hogwarts Express in the opposite direction. We were told “they are two totally different experiences!”  I say, meh. Both stations looked different, but you still waited on line and rode the same train.

We saw a dance-off between the girls from Beauxbaton and the boys from Durmstrang.

Waiting for the train at Hogsmeade Station.

Back in Universal Studios we happened across a character parade. That was fun to watch as we walked past.

We did the Transformers 3D ride and later saw Bumblebee doing some dancing in the streets.

On the way back we did the Transformers 3D ride and the Simpsons 3D ride. Both were fun.  I think I’m getting all of this in the right order.  If not, oh well. This is where my photos for the day end, so I’m trying to remember what we did for dinner.  I think this was the night we went to the fancy Italian restaurant at City Walk (the area just outside the parks where there are lots of restaurants and shops). We marveled at the wide range of fashion at the restaurant. Some were clearly dressed to the nines for dates or celebrations, while others (like us) were clearly fresh out of the theme parks. It was a great meal though and the staff didn’t seem to care how we were dressed!  We also enjoyed seeing the family next to us all reading at the table! :)

Day Four: Volcano Bay

Volcano Bay is the third park that’s part of Universal Studios Orlando and Volcano Bay is purely a water park. We decided to spend the third full day of our visit there because it had the best forecast with the least likely chance of rain or tornado warnings. Unfortunately we did a lousy job prepping for this park and mostly ended up not enjoying it. Sadly. We woke up and got ready, no alarms or rushing out the door, then took the bus ride over. By the time we got there and got into the park it was already 10:30 am and super hot. (mistake one) We found some chairs in the sun (all the shaded ones were claimed – mistake two) and tried to apply sunscreen.  We should have done that back in the hotel because at this point it was hard to tell what was sunscreen and what was sweat!  Already we all felt kinda gross. (mistake three)  Because Volcano Bay is a wate rpark, they have these fancy wristbands that link to your ticket and credit card so you can stow your stuff in a locker and just wear the wristbands.  They also let you “check in” for rides and add your self to virtual wait lines. What they didn’t do was tell you the time of day (their mistake!), so although I looked at it a hundred times wondering what time it was, it never told me. It was also harder than it needed to be to get the tickets and CC info into the not-watch, so by the time we were actually read to go have fun it was probably 11:00 am. Here was my only picture at Volcano Bay.

My one picture before locking up my phone in a locker for the day.

We walked around, burned our feet on the pavement (no water shoes – mistake four) despite the park’s effort at keeping the walkways cool with water misters. We got in a virtual line for one ride, went on another that didn’t have a line, walked around some more, did the first ride, maybe did another one, it’s all kind of a blur. By this time it was clearly lunch time, I could tell because the sun was past it’s high point and starting to descend, how’s that for primitive time keeping!  They only had a few restaurants in the park and each were themed, which made it hard for this picky family to find something to eat. Alan wanted to eat at every restaurant, but we eventually found one that had stuff me and the kids would eat. Of course we weren’t the only ones with the lunch idea, so the lines were ridiculous!  We were all hot and hungry and having no fun at this point. The restaurants were all grab-and-go type places too, so after waiting in long lines, you then had to find a place to sit and eat.Alan went back to the lockers while I waited in the food line, and returned with water bottles and sunscreen. By this point we were well past sunscreen reapplication time as well, so we reapplied while standing in the sun, eating at a burning hot table and generally wishing we were back in the AC at the hotel! I also hated walking around in a bathing suit all day with nothing to carry. Sounds dumb, but I missed having my phone (clock!) and water and access to sunscreen, clothes, etc. It just wasn’t for me.

We were on a virtual ride line during lunch, so we did that ride and then decided to call it quits. This fair-skinned New England family knows when it’s had enough time in the sun! We headed back to the hotel for showers, water (oh, so much water!), and a few rounds of Spades.

Can you tell we’re feeling better by this point? :)

Lessons learned: Go early or late, bring food, wear water shoes, wear a waterproof watch, wear a coverup, or just skip the water park altogether! :)

After showers, cards, and dinner at the hotel we were all feeling much better.  Eve started talking about dessert so we decided to venture into Islands of Adventure again to check out a cafe we’d seen: The Croissant Moon Cafe. We had croissants and cheesecake!  Yum! Then we wandered into Seussville again to check out the bookstore and ride the carousel.

Another attempt at a family photo. :P

Challenge accepted!

Books, and some other stuff too.

Once again we closed the parks, walking out with the crowds after park hours.

Day Five: Parks, Friends, and a Tesla!

We had spent three full days in the parks, which was our plan, but since our tickets included a few free days as well, we decided to swing by one more time before checking out on Saturday morning. We’d heard a rumor that the guy at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes would do an adoption ceremony for pigmypuffs and that the Owl Post would mail postcards, so we made our way back to DIagon Alley.  Breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron (more pancakes!)

The Leaky Cauldron was a pretty cool place.

Haha.. the adoption ceremony was a surprise! A story best told in person.

The Owl Post

 

Postmarked Diagon Alley. :)

Then, I took the kids to pick up our luggage while Alan went to pick our rental car — a Tesla! It was a pretty sweet ride!

One happy guy right here!

Next stop, Mike and Andrea’s house!  They were kind enough to host us for a few days while we detoxed from theme-park overload! :)

A little time in the pool.

Days Six and Seven: Fun with friends

We went to a science museum, did lots of swimming, watched movies, ate ice cream, and generally had relaxing fun with our Florida friends.

Alan was so impressed with my mad balancing skills. I told him years of practice, hanging out at science museums with young kids. You get pretty good at balancing disks and spinning pennies.

Video games everywhere! College flash-backs! :)

We had a lot of fun with the greenscreen and on-air weather reporting.

Day Eight: Traveling home

The day finally came to head home. We were sad to leave, but happy to be heading home as well.

I told Eve to make sure she had everything…. she tried to pack Max!

Florida gave us a pretty cool farewell sun at 6am.

After our last flight out of Orlando (2013 – many years ago) I learned my lesson to get there early, preprint tickets, and not check luggage!

These two are travelling pros! I gave up all hope of controlling screentime while traveling.

We had an easy flight to Raleigh, NC then a long layover.  During the layover it got even longer when bad weather over New England delayed flights in and out of all the airports. Our 3pm flight got pushed back to 4pm, then 6pm, then a ticketing agent rebooked us on 5pm flight and gave us $60 for dinner!

We did play a lot of Spades while we waited too.

The 5pm flight was delayed for awhile, but we eventually took off with a fun and funny flight staff and arrived safely in Boston with our luggage and senses of humor in tact.

This girl is a pretty good traveler too. :)

All the delays gave us lots of time for cards. And junk food. And more cards.

We arrived back in rainy Boston, picked up our dirty not-Tesla, and headed home. We were all hungry (funny enough) and so we stopped at a super yummy restaurant at 9:45pm for a late night dinner. We were home by midnight! Over 18hrs of travel, but we all kept our calm and had fun with each other.

Now we are enjoying a no-plans week at home!

If these selection of photos wasn’t enough for you, feel free to view the whole Google Album. There are some videos in there as well. Enjoy!

Vacation to the magical world of Harry Potter!

Hey all. I know you’ve been waiting with bated breath for a blog update. :)  When we got back from vacation I had to get caught up on my capstone research project, plus prepping for the tech camp I’m running next week, plus some website work for the district and for the Vermont Library Association (yeah, I volunteered to help them, ’cause, why not?!) so all of my “screentime” went into those efforts. Now I’m feeling a little caught up and thought a blog post was in order! :)

Last week we flew down to Orlando, FL to experience the magic of Harry Potter world.  Technically it’s The Wizarding World at Universal Studios, but really HP was the main attraction, with Spiderman coming in a close second!

Day One: Travel and The Chocolate Emporium

We had an easy flight down to Florida. I opted for convenient travel times instead of bottom dollar prices for this trip, so we flew out of Logan around noon and landed in Orlando around 3pm.

The first of many attempts at a nice family picture. Eve is less than cooperative these days.

We took a Lyft from the airport to our hotel. As we drove past the Universal sign I told the driver to pull-over! He said ok!  Turns out he was stopping for a red light anyway. :)

We have arrived!

We stayed at the Loews Royal Caribbean Resort on the Universal Studios campus. They gave us red carpet treatment the whole time.

After checking and stowing our stuff, we ventured out to find dinner.  What better place for dinner than The Chocolate Emporium!

The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen™

The had some pretty crazy desserts, especially these “milkshakes” that had chopped up stuff mixed in and full-on desserts on top!  We all shared one for dessert and it was delicious, but more than enough.

Milkshakes on display

Alan and I split an amazing appetizer (Avocado Bruschetta: Fresh avocado, fried avocado, avocado crema, tomatoes, balsamic reduction, toasted ciabatta) and were duly let down when the meal came.  Lots of “meh” feelings all around.  We got a chocolate brownie milkshake so we could end on a high note. :)

Penelope came to chat with us. The restaurant has a whole backstory that somehow combines chocolate with steampunk. It didn’t make a lot of sense, but Penelope was fun to chat with.

Day Two: Universal Studios, Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, and a Tornado warning!

On day two we were ready to go into the parks!  We started at Universal Studios and headed straight for Diagon Alley. We had early park admission as well, so we got up early and got in before the crowds.

Another attempt at a family photo.

Diagon Alley was pretty cool. Tons of little shops on the outside, many of which weren’t real stores or connected together on the inside.

Diagon Alley

There’s also a dragon sitting on top of Gringott’s.  Sometimes he roars fire!

Beware the dragon!

We went to Ollivanders and saw the wand ceremony. My kids were happy to not have been chosen for the ceremony. :)  We watched another kid go through it though and then we purchased wands. The decision was a tough one! So much for the wand choosing the wizard!

Ollivanders Wand Shop

Outside there are a bunch of areas that you can perform a magic spell and make something happen.  They are embedded into the brick walkway. We had fun finding the places and making magic happen.

Eve, preparing to cast a spell.

It was fun seeing all the treats that they talk about in the books. No Melt Ice-Cream made me laugh. It looks like a cup full of frosting.  Yum!

Yummy!

We had brunch at The Leaky Cauldron Pancakes for everyone, four little trays of breakfast meat for Alan. :)

Brunch at The Leaky Cauldron

We realized pretty quickly that we are not theme-park people. We did one ride (Escape from Gringott’s) and by early afternoon when the sun was hot and the streets were crowded, we decided to make our way home, with a short detour through Springfield.

The Night Bus

Hot and tired and refusing to take off her robes. Also refusing to talk to the shrunken head (which talks back!) because it isn’t a true part of the Harry Potter story.

We swung through Springfield, ate some churros, rode the Simpson’s ride (fun!), rode an alien ride (kids only), laughed at Moe’s Tavern, and moseyed on out of town. It started to rain during dinner, so we headed back to the hotel for a little while. The goal was go to back out after the rain, but the weather decided not to cooperate. Oh well.

It started raining just as we were approaching the hotel, so we got soaked, but not for long. Back at the hotel we changed and settled in for an afternoon break.

The view from the bridge we crossed to enter the hotel.

We ended up with a tornado warning, lots of rain, and high winds… so we stayed inside and played cards instead.  :)  Alan’s family always loved playing Spades, so he took this opportunity to teach the kids how to play. They loved it too!

A lovely afternoon to be inside!

As much fun as we were having, I was antsy and wanted to get back out there, so when the storm cleared we decided to head back for dinner and to catch the light show at Hogwarts. We had a fun dinner at Cowfish, a restaurant that specializes in sushi and burgers. They even have PB&J sushi for the kids. Then we headed back into Universal Studios to take the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade.

King’s Cross Station — heading to Hogsmeade!

The train was a ride in and of itself, with the windows being screens that showed HP characters along the way, and some dark happenings in the hallway. We were all safe inside our cabin though. When we got to Hogsmeade we discovered it was winter there! Everything was covered in “snow.” It was very cute, especially at night.

Honeydukes… because what else is there to do at 9:45pm!

They have a whole light show on the castle each night. It had a part for each house. There are some videos in the Google album if you want to see it.

Hogwarts!

With the parks being officially closed after that, we walked out, with the throng of other park-goers, through Suessville, and other areas, discussing what we wanted to come back for the next day.

Our first day was spent in Universal Studios, but the Hogswart Express goes from there to Islands of Adventure (another park) where Hogsmeade is located. We spent the next day exploring Islands of Adventure.  Stay tuned…

Days three through eight.

Happy Birthday Eve!!

What started out as a trip to check out the First Robotics Competition in Shrewsbury, MA, ended up being an awesome birthday weekend for Eve in Boston!

Lex will be joining the local FRC team next year and I thought it would be fun to check out a competition.  Unfortunately I was a little slow with the planning and missed the two closer ones (day trips) and leaving just one in MA and one (championship, I think) in Washington, DC!  It just so happens the MA event was this weekend and just outside of Boston, so I suggested a birthday trip for Eve.  She hadn’t asked for any other birthday events or parties, and she jumped at the idea of going to the Boston Aquarium!  Yay!

So we drove down to Shrewsbury, MA yesterday, arriving mid-afternoon.  The event was big and loud and we lasted about 20 minutes. LOL!  After about 10 minutes Eve was ready to go, and Lex was ready shortly thereafter.  We stuck around to watch our local team compete in one match and then took off.  Lex says he’s still excited to join, but thinks it will be much more fun next year when he’s part of it and knows what’s going on.  I can’t argue with that!

As soon as we left this mansion of a high school, Eve found a hill she wanted to climb.

Since we were out sooner than expect, I asked Eve what she wanted to do next.  I suggested a movie, or bowling, or shopping.  She suggested a nature hike.  She’s so smart!  We found a local nature reserve and took a beautiful hike through the dry spring forest.  We heard lots of frogs and saw some signs of busy beavers.  We also decided to have family meeting in the woods.  :)

After that we headed to the hotel for check in, then out to dinner at the Olive Garden. Her permanent birthday request. :)

This morning we drove into Boston to check out the Aquarium.  I love parts of that museum and feel totally overwhelmed with other parts.  I think we all felt about the same way. :)  The fun starts before you even get inside, with a seal exhibit containing fat playful seals who do flips and swim upside down.  They were so silly.

Inside, we had a great time watching the penguins and checking out the enormous tank in the middle!

This turtle is over 95 years old and weighs 535lbs!  Her name is Myrtle and she’s a Green Sea Turtle.  They have two other turtles, called Loggerhead Turtles, that are a bit smaller and younger, but they were napping in the tunnel below so we couldn’t see them.  I remember them from years ago though. One is blind and feels his way around the tank.  Both are rescues that the Aquarium took in.

We headed to Quincy Market for a late lunch, then home.  We got out of town just before the driving rain started!  Poor Alan had to drive in it. :/

Back home we  opened presents, ate cake, and measured Eve on the wall.  I had to reach UP to write her height!  She’s a pretty amazing girl.  She was in a good mood all weekend and we had fun laughing and being silly together as a family.  It was wonderful and heartwarming. <3

Tomorrow it’s back to reality with work and school and meetings and play practice and dentist appointments.  But for now, we relax and enjoy the the rest of the evening together with our amazing 12yr old!  Happy Birthday (not so) little girl!

If you want to see all the pictures from this weekend, check out the Google Album.

A weekend in Stowe

Last weekend (actually two weekends ago) we had a little family reunion in Stowe.  It was great!  My new cousin (?) was playing in the World Championship Disc Golf competition so we all gathered there to watch.  Pretty cool that it was so close (for us!).

This would have been a super cool picture if I were standing in a different position. Oh well.

Chris (in the middle) taking a shot. I think this was the 1st or 2nd “hole” of the 18-hole course.

Some of us got a little tired. We slowly started peeling off as the hole count got higher.

Back at the rental home the dogs were happy to see us!

We rented a house big enough for the four of us, Rosy, Mema and Tom, and three dogs.  With room to spare!  Greg and Kathy had their own rental.

The first night we hung at Greg and Kathy’s house, and the second night we hung at our house. Lex brought along Settlers of Catan and it turned out to be a real crowd pleaser! We played East Coast versus West Coast rules. :)

It was a long game!

This dog is too dang cute!

We had to teach Greg how to do the traditional Collier pose. He’s a natural!

The next day we said our good byes and headed towards home.

Eve made sure all the dogs got a turn with the sparkly kitty ears.

We made a few stops along the way home, including a pizza restaurant, a toy store, and Ben & Jerry’s!  Not necessarily in that order. :)

Lex would like all of this, please and thank you.

My silly monkeys at the flavor graveyard at Ben & Jerry’s. We took the tour years ago, but apparently not with Alan so he insisted we go back. It wasn’t hard to convince the rest of us!

Oh man, look at how cute they were last time we went!!

A good time was had by all in lovely Stowe.  I’d like to go back up there for a weekend trip, just to hang out in the village.  It’s beautiful.

New York City!

Hey, we went to NYC last weekend!  Have you heard?  :)  Some Syracuse friends were getting together in NYC for a wedding of an acquaintance (we weren’t invited to the wedding, but it was black-tie and not something I’d want to go to anyway!) and my friend Lauren texted me a few weeks ago to see if we wanted to meet up for dinner.  With some quick logistics and a super helpful Aunt Rosy, we were able to pull it off.  :)  I rented an apartment through HomeAway, big enough for us and Rosy.  We drove down Friday morning.  The trip took longer than expected because the AC gave out in our car half way there, which necessitated multiple stops at Starbucks to cool off.

The kids read books, played games, and didn’t even bicker (very much). It was a nice trip.

Friday night we went out to dinner with friends (some in for the wedding and others there just for dinner), then we all went to a show at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade and  out to a karaoke bar.  There may have been some drinks involved.  It was a ton of fun to catch up with old friends.  I wish we could do it more often!  I love how this group of friends just falls so easily back into sync.

Seven SU friends and a few spouses added in. :) It was a great night!

Saturday morning Alan took the kids to a nearby diner while Rosy and I had a leisurely wake up.  Yay!  Then we all went out for second breakfast (ha!) and down to explore the USS Intrepid.

Rosy patiently entertained the kids while Alan and I figured out the tickets.  Do you see the moon in the picture?  It was much more noticeable and impressive in real life.

Alan explaining something about something. This was definitely more his wheelhouse than mine! :)

It was a quick trip because we had tickets to the 2pm showing of Puffs, an off-Broadway show that’s “a new look at a familiar adventure from the perspective of three potential heroes just trying to make it through a magic school that proves to be very dangerous for children.”  The show was HILARIOUS and I even stayed awake for most of it!  :)

A great show! I would definitely recommend it if you find yourself in NYC or Australia.

Then we met Mark for dinner and an evening full of games and food and fun.

I had some delicious food on this trip! I totally gave up on WW, but enjoyed every bite and sip.

Things get interesting (aka awkward) when your hubby and college buddy start reliving the good old days while sitting next to your teenage (eek!) son. There were definitely a few moments that I brushed over quickly!

Sunday was departure day, but Lex wanted to check out the Lego store in Rockefeller Center first.  Alan took Lex to the diner for breakfast, and Rosy took Eve to a bagel shop, and I had another leisurely morning. :)  Then Rosy, Lex, and I took the subway uptown to Rockefeller Center while Alan and Eve took care of picking up our car from Toyota of Manhattan.  We payed a small fortune for it, but the AC worked again!

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

We need more photos of Rosy and Lex together. :)

The “ear” statue we remember so well from our last trip to NYC has been replaced with this interesting piece of work.

Lex says Rosy and I look a lot alike. Somehow she always looks better in photos though! :/

I love the pattern on this building!

Alan and Eve picked us up, we dropped Rosy off at her car, and the Johnson family headed home.  Somehow it took us forever to get home, but that’s ok.  We stopped for lunch, stopped for multiple Starbucks breaks, and I dunno, jut took awhile.  We made it though and LOVED our vacation!!

If you want to see all the photos, check out the Google Photos album.

A great day in Ithaca

Yesterday we drove up to Ithaca to spend the day with some lovely ladies from our past. As always, I wish we all lived closer together!  Molly and Eve bonded like old friends and Kate did a great job of making Lex feel special. :)

We met at the Children’s Garden where the kids ran through the Anarchy Zone completely unsupervised (which is the intention of the place) while Julie and I sat and chatted.  So nice!!

Molly and Eve took a smile break while washing themselves off with dirty sponges. Hard to get the mud off when the sponges are covered in mud too! They didn’t mind at all! ::)

Lex and Kate working together to refill the water bottles. This fountain has two levels of drinking fountain, a hose attachment, and two spouts on the side for cleaning feet. Pretty smart design!

Eve is going to love this picture when she’s older. She absolutely refused to smile. Bugger!

I love this crowd!! Just missing the daddies.

When we finished at the Children’s Garden we headed over to Taughannock Falls State Park for a little light hiking.  The kids and I missed the turn for the trail entrance and ended up at the visitor center at the top.  Oops!  The trail has a nice “reveal” at the end, but that was spoiled by the fact that we saw the falls first.  Oh well!

A view of the falls.

From the bottom of the trail. Julie and Jim were at this same park just last week and it was full to the brim! She said the entire river was full, swelling at the banks. Amazing what a difference a week can make!

Walking in the (very slippery) river.

It’s a really beautiful place!

The kids all wanted to climb this. Umm… no! It looked like a fresh landslide.

We made it to the falls – again! This time a little closer. :)

When we were all hot and tired we decided to head for the AC – and dinner!  We went to a cute little mall in downtown Ithaca, wandered the stores, bought “twinning” charm bracelets and some Harry Potter books (I can’t leave a bookstore without a purchase – it’s an addiction!) and then headed to the world-famous, vegetarian Moosewood Restaurant for dinner.  It was so yummy!  I had a fancy pasta dish and it was perfect.  The kids all found food they liked (with a little hunger sauce on top!) and we washed it all down with cake and ice cream at the end.  So good!

Twinning!

Ithaca has a “planet walk” much like the Montshire’s and we found Jupiter on the way back to the car. Can you see Lex in this picture? While the three big kids were goofy, Kate stood there so patiently with a big smile on her face, waiting for the picture. <3

Sadly all good days must come to an end, so we said our goodbyes and headed back to Franklin.  Eve and Molly have plans for a sleepover in Eve’s new bunkbeds, so maybe that will be our next visit.  I even promised Julie an above ground guest room, hopefully an upgrade from the basement suite we currently have.  :)

California Vacation

Soo…. many weeks later I finally have some time for blogging. I’d love to give a day-by-day account of our fantastic trip to California, but really I don’t have that kind of time, so here’s a summary blog instead. :)

On Tuesday, June 20th we flew to San Francisco. We had an easy, on time, direct flight. We landed late in SF, rented a car, and drove to Greg and Kathy’s house in Sacramento. I try to plan my trips alternating busy and not-busy days, so after a full day of travel we spent the next day just hanging out at Greg’s house. We did lots of swimming, played Scrabble and Risk, made dinner, and watched a movie. Daniel and Emily and Heather came for the afternoon and dinner, along with their dogs. It was relaxing and fun and perfect.

On Thursday we left Sacramento and drove back to San Francisco for some touristy activities. We stayed one day and two nights there. We spent Friday wandering around the piers, visiting the Embarcado, the Fisherman’s Warf marketplace, and the piers. We had lunch on Pier 39, and I tried to recreate a sourdough memory I have from visiting with Grandma and Carolyn. I found the restaurant, but the meal wasn’t as good as I remember. Perhaps my taste buds have evolved. Ha! More likely because by the time we got our food it was cold, and cold cheesy sourdough toast isn’t that great. Oh well. We ended the adventure at the Ghiradelli Chocolate place, which I was expecting to be a factory or something, but mostly it was an outdoor mall with a Ghiradelli chocolate store and ice cream parlor. We got plenty of chocolate and ice cream!

The next day we hit the road again, heading south. We stopped at the Google Complex, Tesla headquarters, and Carmel-By-The-Sea. Each was fun in it’s own way. We spent that night at a hotel in Santa Maria, then continued on through Los Angeles and down to Carlsbad — Legoland!! We got there in the afternoon, went through the extremely efficient check-in process, then headed out to complete the treasure hunt and open the safe in our room! Joyce met us at the hotel and explored the park with us.

Trip Photos: Part 1

The next day we spent the day at Legoland until mid-afternoon when everyone was done. It involved a lot of walking, eating, waiting in lines, and spending money. All in the hot sunshine. When we first went to Legoland in Florida a few years ago the concept was amazing and we marveled at everything. This time we were a little less impressed. :) Jaded, maybe. The California Legoland is older too, so a lot of it was faded and worn looking. But fun anyway. And the hotel was amazing! It’s interesting now with a little time behind us, but whenever anyone asks Lex what his favorite part of the trip was he always says Legoland, without any hesitation. Yet he was fussing my lunchtime and was eager to leave by mid-afternoon when we had had enough as well. It’s neat how different people remember things differently.

After leaving Legoland we continued south to San Diego where we “checked in” to our rental house. The owner was friendly but the house was TINY and so, so hot. Turns out AC is not standard in California (whatt??) and I hadn’t thought to ask about it. Joyce and I went for a long, oft detoured walk to the store for dinner and we all had a late dinner on the deck, which was finally starting to cool off. Joyce offered us her guest room and we happily moved there the next morning. When I first booked the trip she was expecting to be moving at the same time, but her plans changed and we were all much happier staying with her! :)

Tuesday we moved to her house, languished in her air conditioning for awhile, then attempted to drive to the beach, somehow ending up back in Carlsbad. I fell asleep in the backseat and take no responsibility for that! :) We stopped and got dinner and then went to Oceanside, CA for a sunset beach adventure. It was beautiful!! Alan and the kids swam, we all enjoyed milkshakes on the pier while watching the sun go down, and we went home tired and happy.

Wednesday, our last full day in California, we spent at the San Diego Zoo. I thought that would be a half day at most, but NO, there was so much to see and we lasted past 6pm! We saw lions and tigers and bears (briefly) and koalas and jaguars living with dogs, and a zebra living with a donkey, and elephants and giraffes, and gorillas and bonobo monkeys and hippos and a VERY hungry tiger!! We had so much fun!! Plenty of eating and shopping as well, but minimal lines and the temps were much nicer. When we left the zoo we explored Bilboa Park looking for dinner, but the places were all fancy and expensive and we were not in a fancy or expensive sort of mood so we headed home for pizza delivery instead!

Trip Photos: Part 2

Thursday morning we said our goodbyes and headed home. Another on-time (early, even!) easy direct flight home and we were welcomed back to the east coast by a beautiful sunset over Boston.

We had such a fine time and once again I marvel at what great travelers my kiddos are. They held it together the entire time and were a pleasure to be around. I can’t wait for our next trip! Where to next…. hmmm…..

Thanksgiving 2016

Sooo… happy Christmas Eve. I thought it would be a good day to get this Thanksgiving post done! :)

We were in Franklin for Thanksgiving and this year the family went to the dogs! We had five adults, two kids, and four dogs. It was crazy and fun!

All lined up and ready for a walk!

The usual fare for Thanksgiving. I forget what it was, but I’m sure it was delicious. :)

Who wants some cheese?!? Little beggars.

Lex made bread with me. It was awesome. He made me promise not to post pictures on Facebook, but he said one picture on the blog would be ok.

Eve and her doggies.

I put all the photos in a Google album for your viewing pleasure. :)

Now, I have some Santa duties to fulfill. Merry Christmas y’all!

A Doggie Weekend

This is a bit overdue, but I have to write it before we see the family up here tomorrow!  Hahaha.  Gotta keep things in order.  :)

Last week I took Arlo and the kids to Franklin and we had a super fun time!  Rosy was there with her two dogs and my parents have a new puppy too, so it was a puppy filled visit!  They all got along so great.  I was amazed and thrilled.

I’ll put a few pics here, but I put all of them online here.

We found an awesome playground along the way!

Bodhi had to get his share of food, despite all the big dogs!

Eddie thinks he’s a lap dog!

Lex loves his puppies.

Champagne mojitos all around!

Girls day out! Shopping, lunch, and pedicures. So fun! Eve LOVED her first pedi! :)

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Oh yea, we also celebrated Rosy getting her PhD and having a birthday!  It was a big week for Rosy.  I’m so glad we were able to be there to celebrate her!

Alan pointed out the other day that vacations in Franklin are really my most relaxing vacations because they take very little logistics.  Once we get there someone else walks my dog early in the morning (thanks Dad!) and pays attention to the kids early in the morning (thanks Mom!) and chats with me all night long (thanks Rosy!) and I can relax and just be.  It’s great.

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We found the Lost River!

We took a great day trip to the White Mountains with Rosy today.  We explored the Lost River and Gorge, then we got lunch, then headed up to the Basin.  We were going to swim, but the water was sooooooo cold!  Fresh mountain water!

At the Lost River we started by going down, down, down.

Then we went back up!

Eve asked me to take her picture. Unfortunately you can’t really see the waterfall behind her.

So beautiful!

Sistahs!

Rosy took a picture of me and Alan and the kids up in that bridge. Maybe she’ll share it with us. 😀

We also went crawling through caves and rock formations. It was so much fun!!

It’s hard to take pictures in dark caves!

Then we climbed all the way up to the tip top for an amazing view!

The famous Lemon Squeeze! If you don’t fit through that wooden frame, you won’t fit through the squeeze!

Duck!

Alan bravely went through the Lemon Squeeze with the kids!

It was all smiles all day!

We took a break in the tree house. Do you see the baby bear behind Eve?

There’s another one! There were adorable carved bears all around the tree house.

After lunch we went over to The Basin.  There are so many amazing things to see in the White Mountains.

A waterfall near the basin.

The water was CHILLY!!

Chilly, but beautiful.

They went in anyway!

To round out the day we stopped for ice cream.  When you have lunch at 3pm, ice cream for dinner is perfect!

Eve sat by herself on the bench to eat ice cream and read her book.

A great day was had by all! (except the poor woman who broke her ankle at the Basin and had to wait nearly an hour for the rescue squad to get to her!)  We saw a few other things up that way that looked interesting, so we all agreed another day trip would be in order.

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