A day by the sea

We took a day trip to the Atlantic today. Lex wasn’t interested in spending all day at the beach, and Eve would like to live at the beach, so we came up with a compromise. We drove to Portsmouth to check out Prescott Park (thanks for the recommendation, Rosy!!). The park is beautiful and we found a bagel place for lunch. Win-win. I would love to explore the little shops in Portsmouth, but my teenagers were not interested in that today. :)

One of the park gardens. They were really beautiful.

The park faces the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, so there were lots of interesting boats to see.

Also a cool looking bridge. We laughed at the people on those little boats in front as they held on for dear life when a big boat came by, creating crazy rocking waves. :)

We were happy to get a chance to see the bridge go up! Can you see the sail boat below with the tall mast?

We walked in to the village to find food. I liked this menu. :)

I wanted to take our bagels back to the park for a picnic, but the kids opted for tables and AC, so we ate at the restaurant then walked back to the car, then headed for the beach!

I wanted to stop at the lighthouse, but the kids didn’t want to do that, so I did a drive by instead. :) We saw all the big houses and amazing views. We saw what must have been a million dollar child’s birthday party going on at one of the seaside mansions! I wanted to crash it, but the kids vetoed me again! Dang teenagers! LOL.

We got to Short Sands Beach in York, Maine and spent a few hours in the water. It was mid-afternoon by this point, and only in the high 70s, so we found a parking spot and plenty of room on the beach. The kids all swam, and I just stood in the water. It was too chilly for me to swim. Also, (true confessions) I don’t love swimming. Is it possible to love the ocean, but not love swimming?! I hope so, because I do! I love the waves, and the sound, and the power of it all. I love standing in the water, but feel no desire to dive all the way in.

The mermaid surveys her domain.

We had a lot of fun with this mermaid tail. Lots of looks. Several people asked if we were doing a photo shoot. I just laughed and laughed as she tried to get herself out to the deeper water. I love everything about this girl! She brings joy to everyone around her. <3

Three in the sea.

I didn’t swim, but I didn’t exactly stay dry either! :)

When we were all done in the water the kids changed back into clothes (they were chilly!) and we went to The Goldenrod for dinner and their infamous salt water taffy! Dinner was ok, the company was entertaining, and the taffy, as always, is fantastic!

And now, your moment of Zen.

A big 70th in Boston!

Everyone who reads this blog probably already knows all this, but I’m writing the post anyway! :) This past weekend we spent in a mansion (practically) just outside of Boston, with family who came from near and far to celebrate Mema’s 70th birthday!!

It was a secret of the very best kind. My sisters and uncles and aunt all coordinated a mini-vacation, without telling my mom about it. I invited her to Boston for the weekend to do a whale watch with us and SURPRISE big family party! :)

The house belonged to this guy. We had a lot of fun admiring his posters and his house, and Googling him to learn more. :)

I didn’t take any pictures of just the house, but you can get an idea based on the pictures I did take. It was huge and beautiful! The house had a big backyard with all the amenities, including a jacuzzi and fire pit.

Friday night we did a little grocery shopping at the biggest Wegman’s ever, enjoyed a hearty dinner of kale soup made by Greg and Kathy, and generally just relaxed with one another.

Joyce was in charge of the decorations. We all enjoyed them. Happy Birthday Mema!! :)

There was a pool table, a foosball table, and a chess table! We called this the Red Room. I felt like the queen’s servant opening and closing those drapes each day.

First things first, chess!

Our jacuzzi even came with a mermaid!

The kids had fun with the lights and bubbles settings, creating an “RGB gamer hot tub.” The mermaid enjoyed herself.

Greg and I stayed up late with the kids the first night and played a few rounds of pool. Or maybe they stayed up late with us. I’m not sure anymore. We all had fun.

We might have gotten a little silly. :P

On Saturday we headed in to Boston to visit the aquarium and go on a whale watch. This sounds very straight forward, but choppy seas, broken transit, and unclear parking made it an eventful morning. Eventually we made it though and it was soooo worth the effort!

The Boston Aquarium was beautiful, as usual. Some people in our party had never been before, so if was fun exploring it with them for the first time.

We only saw one sea turtle this time. We were wondering where the rest were. I’ll have research that at some point. The turtle did a nice lap around the tank for us. Showing off just a little. :)

I missed the best picture of this guy smiling at me, but I got him on the second time around.

The penguins are always my favorite part!

What are these sea lions doing?!? Look at their flippers all wrapped up. Both of them had a side flipper and their tail flippers wrapped around each other (not tied, it looks like something they did themselves) and their other side flipper doing small turns in the water below. Like they were just chilling with their flippers all up in the air. It was so funny looking.

These three were also resting with one flipper down and the other straight up. It seemed to be naptime for most of them. One (not pictured) was having a good time with a toy, but the rest were pretty chill.

Then we headed out for a whale watch. The captain assured us the water wasn’t *too* choppy – yet. She said she thought she could get us out and back in before the water got too rough. Reassuring? I’m not sure. She was right though! She got us out there, the water wasn’t too bad, and the whales were a plenty!!

We say five different whales, two of which were a mother/calf combo that spent a lot of time feeding and playing around our boat. The boat had a “naturalist” (scientist? biologist?) on board who’s job it was to tell us over the loud speaker what we were seeing. She was also taking notes and documenting and doing science kind of stuff along the way. She was thrilled to see so many whales and just giddy over the “silly baby calf” that was playing and flipping and practicing it’s dives. She kept exclaiming over and over about how cute it was and how surprising and that baby whales like to play, just like baby people. Her enthusiasm was contagious and we all really enjoyed the experience. She said they don’t bait the animals or use sonar, so it’s kind of hit or miss what you see on each trip. I guess we got lucky. Maybe the whales wanted in on the birthday surprise too!

Everyone say CHEESE! Or WHALES!

We sailed on the Asteria. It sounds more glamourous than it really was, given the number of barf bags used. LOL. Not by our crew though!

I got LOTS of pictures of water. We saw so many whales and so close, yet my camera didn’t capture any of them well. Oh well.

I love this lady. 🧡💚💙

I got lots of pretty water pictures though. :)

Hi!

There’s a whale’s tail!

Despite my photography skills, I promise we had so many great views of the whales. We saw Freckles, and Dross, and Dross-2021-calf, and Owl, and a Minke. You can learn more about these whales on their website. The website is a little out of date, unfortunately, but you get the idea.

Back at home we were all exhausted so we ate pizza, tried to watch tv, and fell asleep. I say “tried” to watch TV because the homeowner and his family are Russian and therefore all of their books were in Russian, the clock was Russian, and even the TV was all in Russian. I can guess at some languages, but Russian left me pretty clueless.

We just wanted to watch Jeopardy! :)

Sunday came slowly and we all looked forward to a day at “home” enjoying each other’s company. I finished putting together the birthday cake, Greg and Kathy made another delicious meal, and we kept each other busy with games of Dominoes, Scrabble, Catan, and of course, pool.

Dominoes

Scrabble. Eve won, with a little lot of help from her neighbor! :)

This Catan game lasted longer than TWO rounds of Scrabble!

Yummy delicious strawberry cream birthday cake. I was looking forward to this all week! :)

Mema got a Lego flower bouquet for her birthday and asked for assistance building it. We were all eager to help out. Grandpa Tom was waiting patiently for the pool table to become available again.

A sneak picture of Eve. :)

Happy Birthday Mema!!

Uncle Carl and Mema, holding the completed bouquet of Lego flowers.

Monday morning we packed up and headed home, promising each other we’ll do it again soon. I’m so happy the pandemic is (mostly) over so we can gather again. I love my family!! <3

A Birthday in Burlington

Baby Zig is turning 16 this week! It’s hard to believe how fast the years have flown by. Per usual, he doesn’t want a party and he mostly just wants Legos and books. One different thing he did want this year is some extra driving practice time, so we decided to take a day trip to Burlington. A random idea turned into an awesome day with family in an adorable city. We walked Church street, ate delicious bagels in the park, Lake Champlain chocolate ice cream and macrons, opened birthday presents, visited the science museum and the Earth Clock, spent about a minute and a half at the World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet, and finished the day with dinner at the Olive Garden. Yum!

You’ve come a long way baby!

Whales Tails along the side of the high way. I love Vermont.

13ft tall, African black granite, pretty cool.

All three kids had fun with this exhibit. Feeling strong. 💪🏻

Eek! He let me take an “almost 16” picture. I’m such a lucky momma! 🤗🤗

The Burlington Earth Clock. Probably would have been a little more effective if the sun were out.

It took some work to figure it all out.

This is a fun picture. :)

One of the stones had a heart hole in it. 🖤

The World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet, apparently a VT tourist attraction. Who knew?! I guess we can check that off the bucket list now. 😂

We had a beautiful drive home, with Lex behind the wheel.

Sunday morning Legos. Happiness is.

Done! A double decker London bus, complete with gum under a seat.

After a year of Covid and quarantine it was nice to get out and sample a little bit of normal again. I’m looking forward to a lot more of that as the summer comes.

Lake life

We celebrated Rosy’s 40th, Grandpa Tom’s 70th, and Meme and Tom’s 40th in a big celebration at the lake last week. It was so much fun. The house was beautiful. I could happily sit on the deck and watch the water for days and days.

This is a terrible picture. :) At the last minute we decided to bring the dog as well. The car was packed, the kids were crammed in, somehow Eve got the front seat (and a huge, blurry hand in this picture), and we headed to the lake!

We had a beautiful house, right on the lake. If it were my house I would have cut down a few trees, but it is not my house, so I just enjoyed the trees as part of the view.

I love how the and the sky play so well together and look different every day.

Tuesday night was the peak for the Perseid meteor shower. The kids and I decided to stay up until midnight (when the real show was supposed to begin). We played Apples to Apples, our standard “stay up to midnight” game. Then we went down to the dock. It was beautiful. We laid on the dock, discussing the constellations, enjoying the weather and the water. We saw a few meteors, but just as midnight rolled around, the clouds decided to join us, and they rolled in too, think and heavy. Sigh. Even without seeing the official “shower,” we still had a great night.

The next night we went back again, a little earlier, and saw another handful of meteors. No one was in the mood to stay up until midnight, but we did have a second night on the doc, this time with Rose and Joyce.

It’s hard to take pictures in the dark! :) See Huxley in there too, lying on the dock with his people. <3

Sunrise-ish. I’m not really an “up with the sun” kinda person!

We did lots of canoeing, kayaking, and floating.  By “we” I mean the whole group.  I just did the kayaking.  The stairs down to the beach were STEEP and the shoreline itself was very rocky, so it wasn’t the best conditions for swimming, but we had fun anyway.

Lex in the kayak, pulling the Birthday Girl Rose in a float. :) Eve is further out in another kayak and J is on a paddle board.

We had a few afternoon showers early in the week. One resulted in a full rainbow! I love how the whole inside of the rainbow arc is yellow/orange. So cool!

Sunsets are more my speed. :)

On Thursday we had a few extra friends over for the official party.  It was a Tye-Dye theme.  Eve and I made funfetti cake, we tie-dyed shirts, and painted rocks.  There was some grilling of food and roasting of marshmallows.

Funfetti – per the birthday girl’s request.

A doctor, a nurse, AND an artist! What can’t this girl do?!

The shirts came out AMAZING!!! Especially hanging in the sun to dry. :)

A beautiful rainbow shirt made by a sullen sulking teenager. :)

Clemson in the house?!

Joyce is a master fire maker. She brought her A game and whipped up a few mighty fine fires. :) I brought the s’mores!

Alas, our time at the lake could not go on forever (and some of us were missing our air conditioning!) so when the week ended we packed up and headed home.  Back to the ferry (oh yea, we took a ferry both ways!) and our side of the lake.

A roadside vista I just HAD to pull over for!

I would be remiss to end this post without mentioning the one thing that was a topic of conversation ALL WEEK.  The TRAIN!  There were train tracks right behind the house and the trains went by several times a day… but mostly at night! The first night we were there I wasn’t aware of the train and woke up at 3am feeling like the train was in my bedroom!!  It was soooo loud!  That morning I got up (too early) and read the house reviews on the website.  Every one mentioned the train.  Somehow I missed that. 🙄  What’s even crazier though, is that every comment said the trains were no big deal.  I was like WHAT?!? But, believe it or not, by the end of the week they WERE no big deal! I was sleeping through most of them by the end of the week, something that seemed impossible on Monday. The train gave us lots to talk about, even though I didn’t get any picture.  The geekier among us counted cars, researched car lengths, and estimated train lengths.  A little summer math, just for fun. 😊

We all agreed that this is the 1st Annual lake side vacation, but also that we need to find a house with easier beach access.  I’m looking forward to next year’s getaway already! 💖

Country living

Eve decided to go back to summer camp in NY, so we’re spending a week in the country.  We dropped her off on Friday and she even allowed me to take a picture! :)

Cabin 9, just like last time.

Camp starts with a swim test. I snuck a little picture. She passed the test with no trouble at all.

While she was away, Lex and I hung at in Franklin. We watched G’Tom and his friend repaint the house, we had a little mani/pedi session, we watched lots of TV and played lots of Minecraft … I say “we” but I think you can guess who did what! :)

Greg, hard at work painting. Mema was gardening and Tom was painting, but somehow neither of them ended up in my photo.

Just for fun.

We also took a trip to Target, saw Toy Story 4, watched the Tour de France, and took a few walks.  The heat steadily rose all week.

We picked up Eve on Friday. She had a great time at camp and is already planning her return.

A cheer tunnel for all the campers to run through. Camp is fun!

Closing ceremony. It’s hot and humid, and Eve is wearing her sweatshirt. At least it is unzipped!

Eve introduced us to all her new “friends,” that included a few animals she made at craft time, and a collection of rocks she drew faces on.

She made friends (of the human variety), collected email addresses, and is now enjoying a screen-filled day today.  :)  We are all spending the day doing as little as possible and riding out the record high temps.

Life in the country. <3

 

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.