Monday, May 15, 2017

Sister Sister Whirlwind Trip: The last day/What I bought, Part 5 of 5

 Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here and Part 4 here

We spent our last day hitting the highlights in Harry Potter World and buying souvenirs that we had put off buying until the last day.  We checked out of our hotel in the morning and when we finally left the park for the last time, we headed back to Tampa to our cousin's house.  Even though we got back pretty late, he waited to eat dinner with us.  We went to The Crab Shack for crab legs.  They were delish!  I also got some oysters because I always love to try local ones and they were also good.  We hit the hay the minute we returned and woke up early the next day. 

We couldn't leave Florida without at least seeing the ocean so we stopped by a little beach along the way.  There were "no swimming" signs everywhere but we decided it would be ok to wade a bit so we did!

From there, we headed straight to the airport.  I got held up in security because the crystal decanter from Bill's grandma was deemed suspicious!  We were flying home on different airlines in different terminals to different cities and I wasn't allowed to go to her terminal with her so we had to abruptly say goodbye!  It was so sad! Once she left, I spent the rest of the day working from the airport. 

It was a great first-ever sister trip and I have a feeling there will be many more in our future! I loved getting to spend almost a full week with my sister -- we have never done that as adults.  It was awesome getting to hang in that way, just us with no one else around!


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Now, on to the souvenirs that I bought because I'm 12 years old and love sharing my souv purchases!


First, gifts:
- For Bill and Davey, drinking glasses with the deathly hallows on them
- For Dad, a jar of Pepper Imps (cinnamon candy) from the candy store
- For Mom, a Gryffindor keychain with her name on it.  This was a bit of a cop-out, I know, but nothing really screamed "Mom" to me!


Now, on to souvs I bought for myself:
- From Disney, a Winne the Pooh mug that I got in the "UK"
- a stuffed Buckbeak (a bird in the 3rd book)
- a little pigmy puff for my purse (cute little pink and purple puffball animals sold at Weasley's shop)
- a new black leather journal with the Hogwarts crest -- the paper looks antique
- obviously my wand!
- a really cool "collegiate" looking shirt with the Hogwarts crest and motto

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Well, that's it! Thanks for sticking with me through this long trip recap!





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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sister Sister Whirlwind Trip: Epcot & Magic Kingdom, Part 4 of 5

 Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here

Abbie really wanted to go to Disney, so we made the last-minute choice to buy park hopping tickets and spend one day in the happiest place on Earth! The last time we had been there together was 1997 or 1998 - she was 6 and I was 12. I went to the Magic Kingdom in college once after spring break.

We started out at Epcot and road Soarin' right away.  The line was 70 minutes long, but it was so awesome.  I think it's my favorite ride in the whole world.  For those of you who don't know, the ride takes you on a hang-gliding adventure across the world.  It really feels like you're flying!  When you soar over the savanna in Africa, you see elephants frolicking and you really smell the grass!  In India, you smell flowers and in Fiji it smells like an exotic beach.  It takes you to the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel tower, Sydney Harbor, waterfalls, frozen glaciers, and more.  I absolutely loved it and would ride it every day if I could! We used a tip from one of Abbie's Disney books and asked for seats in B-1 for the best view. 

After that, we headed straight to Norway for the Frozen ride. We waited a. long. time.  With many children.  The queue alone was really neat -  it felt like we were really in Norway.  The ride itself was a little silly, but with some really cool special effects.

Next up was food time.  We headed to Mexico because we both had such nostalgic memories.  We ended up just getting snacks of nachos and churros and a margarita for me.

After this, we spend most of the day just wandering through the different countries.  My favorites were Morocco and the UK.  In Italy, Abbie finally got the cannoli she's been wanting for her entire life.  I got us some sparkling peach wine and limoncello.  It almost felt like we were really there! Morocco was just as cool as I remember.  Wandering through the country from market to market and seeing the baths felt like we were really there!  The UK was awesome.  I loved all of the shops and the ambiance felt pretty authentic, or what I imagine it to be like!

In the "USA," Abbie introduced me to the Liberty Singers.  They were amazing!  At first I was just happy to get in the AC and out of the heat, but I had no idea the great show I was in for.  They are an a capella group and they were aca-awesome, as my little brother would say!

We headed to the parking lot around 6:00 to drop some things off, but we couldn't find our car anywhere!  We looked and looked.  The alert horn didn't do anything when I pushed it on our key and I eventually started to freak out a bit.  We asked one of the parking lot attendants to help us. We finally found it thanks to his help and the Waze app!  It wasn't their fault at all, but he was so nice!  He let us move our car to a premium spot and gave us 2 extra Fast Passes for Epcot and one for Magic Kingdom as well!  Since we knew we weren't going to be able to go back to Epcot, we went back through security and hoofed it to use a Fast Pass to ride Soarin' again.

We hopped on the Monorail (which is way less scary than I remember...) and arrived at the Magic Kingdom just as the sun was setting.  I felt bad for Abbie because she didn't get to see it in the daylight, but it was pretty neat at night.  We road nearly everything we wanted to ride! We had Fast Passes for Seven Dwarfs, Peter Pan, Haunted Mansion and ... something else... hmmm.  I don't remember.   OH -- I think we used it on the Winnie the Pooh ride.  Seven Dwarfs was really neat!  When I was younger, I always looked through my Dad's old Viewmaster and there was one that took you into the Seven Dwarf's mine and you could see all of the gems glowing.  This ride was just like that!  It was definitely a real roller coaster too and Abbie did great! The Pooh ride was ridiculous.  You ride in a honey pot and go "into" a book.  We were laughing the entire time because it was just so silly.  There's a dream sequence that feels like someone on an acid dream must have created it.  Definitely not what I imagine Pooh dreams about! Peter Pan was just as magical as we remembered it.  I would ride that again and again just for the beginning parts.  Haunted Mansion was simultaneously less scary than I remember but also more morbid.  And long.

What else did we ride?  Well, we rode It's A Small World, which has been remodeled since the last time I saw it.  I know it gets a bad rap, but I always think it's pretty cute.  Longer than I remember, though.  Hilariously, we both got a little queasy on this one!  We also road the Little Mermaid ride!  We were literally the only people on it.  We kept walking and walking through her grotto until we finally found the ride.  It was old but pretty neat!  When we were done, the attendant asked us if we wanted to stay on to ride again.  We didn't but it was a cool ride.  I kept raving to Abbie about The People Mover, which takes you through Space Mountain.  I remembered it being really cool and I made my dad ride it over and over again.  It was... less exciting than I remember but it was a good break to rest our feet! That was pretty funny since I'd been talking it up all day.

We walked around for what felt like hours trying to find something to eat and ended up going into some Pinnochio place to eat awful pizza. The breadsticks were good though.  As we were wrapping up dinner, I heard fireworks going off and made us dash outside to see them.  Turns out we were in the perfect location for fireworks!  We saw the ones coming from the castle and the ones coming from right over head.  It went on forever and was one of the best and most magical fireworks shows I've ever seen!

Some things that weren't rides, but that we really enjoyed were walking through Cinderella's castle (Abbie walked back to touch it, just to say she did.  It was adorable.) and seeing Gaston's Pub.  Having just seen Beauty and the Beast, it was very exciting and so authentic!

The crowds were not bad at all.  I was afraid it was going to be terrible since it was my sister's spring break, but I guess we missed the big rush by about a week.  In the evening, there was hardly anyone around! We took the monorail back to our parking lot and we were exhausted! I think we squeezed just about everything we could have done out of our one day!

It was the Flower Festival at Epcot and there were gorgeous flowers everywhere!

LOL

In line for Frozen!

Mexico

My favorite Disney Movie!

Abbie in Morocco

Finally at Magic Kingdom!

Lol.  Inside Small World

Gaston's Pub!


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sister Sister Whirlwind Trip: Part 3 of 5, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hogsmead/Hogwarts

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here
All photos at end of post.

 
Having seen the other park on Sunday, we headed straight to this park on Monday and boy was I excited.  As soon as Hogwarts came into view, I gasped and grabbed Abbie's arm.  She thought something was wrong, but I was just excited!  I don't remember the order of what we did, but we tried just about everything there was to do here!

We rode the "kiddie coaster," Flight of the Hypogriff, which is one of the fastest coasters I've ever been on and totally roached my back.  Abbie was pretty queasy from it too.  I find it hard to believe that it's classified as a "kiddie" coaster.  Ugh.  The only thing cool about this ride in my opinion was getting to see Hagrid's hut while we were in line. It also gave me a migraine, but thankfully water and some medicine fixed that right up.

We found a lovely little nook beneath some brick arches were we often stopped to take rests.  I suppose our nook was the equivalent of our staircase in the other park.  

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey takes place inside of Hogwarts.  You get to walk through Hogwarts while you are in line and that was the best part if you ask me!  It was so authentic-looking.  You get to see Dumbledore's office, the Dark Arts classroom, and more.  As soon as we got onto the ride, it stopped.  We were stuck in our seats and I was not a fan of that.  I hate being restrained!  I was very close to asking if we could get off and wait, but it finally moved.  This ride was neat, but made Abbie pretty sick and gave her a headache.  It made me moderately nauseous, but I also didn't like it for another reason which is the crazy amount of giant spiders and dementors.  Yikes.  I loved soaring over Hogwarts lake but that was about it!  I pretty much had to shut my eyes during all of the "movie" parts, because it made me instantly queasy.  I realize that it sound like I hated this ride and I actually didn't -- I am glad I rode it but probably don't need to ride it ever again.  The next time I go, I think I'll just do the "tour" through Hogwarts in which you get to walk through everything but not ride. The photo of us is hilarious, though.  I got in trouble for taking a picture of the picture but #noregrets. When we got off the ride, they gave us free Express Passes for being stuck on the ride in the beginning, so that was a nice perk.

On our last day in the park, I woke up with bravery and decided that I wanted to ride the only real rollercoaster in the wizarding world, Dueling Dragons. Abbie didn't want to ride, but she walked through with me.  We got to see the Goblet of Fire and some other things.  It was a long walk to the ride!  I have never ridden a coaster by myself before, but it was worth it.  It was awesome!  It was one of the ones where your feet dangle.  It had a lot of twists and upside down moments and was just so fun.  I actually found myself smiling like a giant dork.

One of the other highlights in this area were the owlery/owl post, where you can actually mail things and a plant storefront that had a mandrake.  There didn't seem to be as many spells to do in this park.  We ate at 3 Broomsticks -- Abbie got fish & chips again while I opted for the ribs.  Good, but I wish I had gone with fish & chips too.

The only ride non-Harry Potter that we rode was Kong.  It was a little silly, but fun.

That wraps up most of our time in the wizarding world!  It's pretty hard to really convey the  magical feeling of being in the park.  If you're a fan at all, I definitely recommend going.  I can't wait to go back!

Entrance to Hogsmeade

Buckbeak!

The view from our little nook

Possibly THE nerdiest picture of me to exist

Stuck on the ride

Zoom in for hilariousity

Hog's Head

Hogwarts Express

My new school

Yum



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sister Sister Trip: Part 2 of 5, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley

See Part 1 here
All pics for this post are at the end!

 
Oh, my heart! I loved Harry Potter World more than I thought I would.  I can't wait to go back!

I bought us 2-day tickets, but they were running a special where when  you bought a 2-day ticket, you got 2 days free, so all in all we spent 3 days in the park:  half of Sunday, all day Monday, and most of the day Wednesday.  The Wizarding World is split between the two Universal Parks, Universal Studios and Island of Adventure.  You have to buy a park-to-park ticket to see both, which we did. Universal contains Diagon Alley and Islands of Adventure houses Hogsmead and Hogwarts.

On Sunday evening, we went to Diagon Alley for the first time.  We meandered through Universal on our way to Harry Potter and we finally spotted London and the Knight Bus.  I'll never forget how exciting is was to walk through the brick walls leading to Diagon Alley.  It felt like we were really there!  As soon as we passed through the walls, we saw little wizards and witches performing "spells" with their wands, we saw the Weasley's joke shop, Ollivander's Wand Shop and first and foremost, a Butterbeer stand!  We wasted no time in getting our first Butterbeer. I actually got a Strongbow when  I discovered that you could walk around with adult beverages!  Abbie got a frozen Butterbeer and sadly, she didn't like it too much!  I, on the other had, did.  At first I was unsure, but the froth on top was just too good.  I ended up having 3 more before the trip was over!

We rode Escape from Grigott's, which was awesome.  It was our first 3-D ride and it didn't disappoint!  The views from the queue were awesome as well - the goblins looked so real and the decor was en pointe.  As throughout the park, there were some newspapers with moving photos just like in the movies.  SO NEAT to see in real life.  On our 2nd (3rd?) ride on this ride, we made friends with the people in front of us!

We ate dinner at the Leaky Cauldron. We both had fish & chips which were surprisingly good.

I bought a wand from Ollivander's Wand Shop.  The wand experience was really cool.  The Wizard playing Ollivander was so convincing!  Somehow, I didn't see that the store was 90% full of character  replica wands and instead chose a "unique" wand belonging only to me (and 100,000 other people!).  Had I known that there were replicas, I may have bought Hermione's, but I'm pretty happy with my wand.  I went with the interactive style which allowed me to perform "spells" throughout the wizarding world.  It was $50 and while I wondered was it really worth it, I obviously decided that it was.  I do not regret my decision for a second because I loved trying all of the spells!  Some of my favorites were making an umbrella rain, lighting up a store full of lights, levitating a feather ("wingardium leviosa!"), and making a little skeleton chimney sweep climb in Knockturn Alley.

Which reminds me, Knockturn Alley!  It was so cool, creepy and realistic.  If you don't know, this is an area in Diagon Alley where you'll find more "dark magic" items.  It was dark, freaky and perfect.  I ended up buying my brother and Bill their souvenirs at Borgin and Burkes in this alley.

On our last day, my wand stopped performing and I realized the tip was all dented and scratched because I had dropped it.  I learned from one of the wizards who work there that I could take it in for a "wand repair."  I brought it in and sure enough, they brought me a brand new wand.  Pretty awesome, considering how expensive they are! 

Some of our favorite moments from the trip were spent just sitting on stairs next to the bank and people watching.  Occasionally the dragon would go off, roaring and sending fire out above the crowd.  It was exciting every time!

Other Diagon Alley favorites: ice cream, the candy store connected to Weasley's (candy ribbons, chocolate frogs, Pepper Imps, fudge, etc!), the little "pet" store where they had stuffed versions of nearly every animal in the books/movies, shopping in the various stores (I tried on a robe in one!), and our favorite part was being there at night.  Everything really came alive!

We spent our whole time Sunday in Diagon Alley, half of Monday, and the second half of Wednesday.  To get to the other park, you board the Hogwarts Express and the ride is a show in itself!  You see the "view" through the window but Harry, Ron and Hermione are also in the hallway.  We took the Hogwarts Express 3 or 4 times during our trip! Platform 9 and 3/4 was SO neat in this park.  It looks like you really disappear through the wall!  Abbie read up on how they achieve that effect, but I decided to just keep pretending it was magic.

Up next:  Hogsmeade and Hogwarts!

The Knight Bus!

Our first view!

We made it!!!


Blurry, but the inside of Ollivander's

Even the restaurants were cool!

On the Hogwarts Express!

Being silly

Gringotts

Little show before the ride at Gringott's

My wand!  We are sitting on our favorite steps here

ROAR

The realistic goblins inside of Gringotts



Monday, May 8, 2017

Weekending: April 28-30 and May 6-7

Here's another double dose of weekending! Linking up with Biana.

Last weekend, Bill and I headed to Ohio for my family's annual mushroom hunt.  For anyone who doesn't know, in the midwest, hunting for morel mushrooms is a common springtime activity, and one that my family has done for generations! 

We headed out after work Thursday and took Friday off for "the big hunt."  The big hunt turned out to be a big bust!  We first traveled to a beautiful state park where we found 2.  2!  We stopped by Amy's new house (!) and went to Young's Dairy Farm for some ice cream.  I haven't been there in over a decade, so it was fun to see it again and introduce Bill to it.  Next up we went to a private woods owned by one of his friends and found one.  Finally, we went to the dam near our house and finally had a bit of luck, finding around 40.  Earlier in the week, my family had found hundreds so at least we got to have a feast!

All of our sticks ready to go!  Mostly carved by Dad

Back when we were optimistic

Pretty
Happy for ice cream!

So funny.  Lilly took this and said I looked like Big Foot and she's totally right!
The Big Hunt!
No mushrooms, but Dad found a lovely skull...


The freshest morel I've ever seen, found by Dad
The next two days went about the same.  Had a little luck but nothing crazy.  The weather was pretty gross, too.  Wet and muddy.  We played some games with mom - Boggle, Farkle, Oh Hell and Pictionary. I gave Davey his belated birthday presents and Mom her early Mother's Day gift.  My cousin James visited on Sunday and I got to meet his new baby girl! We headed out early Sunday afternoon. On the way home, we stopped in Columbus for a coffee break with Kyle.   It was a quick trip, but a great time filled with family and fun!

Phoebe wanted to play too

Kyle!
How cute is Bill with baby Zoe?!



















This past weekend, I spent Friday night relaxing while Bill went to his friend's house to grill and drink beer. Yesterday, I got up early and was very productive -- I did several loads of laundry, tidied up my area of the bedroom and scrubbed the bathroom.  At noon, I went to brunch at Masa 14 with two coworkers.  It was a great time but I had too many mimosas!  I got the mail when I came home and to my delight discovered that I got jury duty for the first time in my life!  I've always wanted jury duty!  After I recovered somewhat from my many mimosas, we headed to the hardware store to buy plants.  We have a plot on our roof and today was the deadline to plant in it or the building would give it away to someone else!  We ended up just getting tomatoes, cilantro and jalepenos.  We headed to the roof to plant them in the cold rain.  I think we'll buy some more plants in the future, but we just had to get something in so they didn't give it away!

Today we went to The Bloody Mary Festival at the Blind Whino.  The venue was awesome! It was an old church that artists painted all over the inside. There was live music on both floors. The festival showcased bloody marys from many different local restaurants and bars.  There were a lot of unique ones and my favorite was one that had coconut milk, curry and fish sauce in it from Barrel.  My second favorite was one made with hand-pressed tomato juice from La Jambe. Some of the restaurants had cool effects like adding smoke to your drink or torching the garnishes. While I liked the idea of the festival, it was pretty crowded and loud.  It may have been more fun if we had been with a big group, but we ended up leaving after about an hour.

Baba Bar adding smoke to our drinks!
Bloody Mary with wings!
Since getting home from the festival, we have both just been wrapping up laundry and relaxing before the week begins.  
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