Friday, September 30, 2011

Disney Day 5: Epcot

Day 5 of our family vacation took us to Epcot. We told the kids that we would get them ears there so one of our first stops was at Mouse Gear. Little did we know, we would be back in that store at the end of the night. I picked up a Disney cookbook at that store as well and had it shipped back to the hotel.

Disney Tip: You can ship any of your purchases back to a resort hotel free of charge.

While I took Munchkin over to the Test Track, Bobby took Little Man to get fast passes for Soarin. Bobby and I had ridden Soarin after it opened in California so we were excited to ride it again at Epcot. While waiting for Bobby and Little Man, Munchkin and I found a good spot to wait with a giant fan blowing on us. After running through the park it was nice to stand in the breeze and hope the large amounts of perspiration would evaporate.

The kids loved the test track, especially that part where we accelerated to 60 miles an hour. We made our way back to Soarin in "The Land". While in line for Soarin (even with a fast pass we had to wait just a little bit) we had a conversation with the family behind us about hidden mickey's.

Disney Tip: Get to book about finding hidden mickeys and try to find them in each ride. We found a few that we knew about but it would have been good to have a hint book.
 While we were at lunch I realized I had made reservation for the following night at Magic Kingdom but we were planning on being at Hollywood Studios all day. So, while Bobby took the kids to meet Alice in Wonderland and to play Mickey hopscotch I called the reservation desk and was able to change our dinner at the Crystal Palace to lunch at Five and Diner. The reservation person was fantastic to work with and very helpful.
 We really wanted to have Fish and Chips in England so at lunch time that is where we headed. When we got up to the patio area there were no tables available. However, there was a very sweet family from Wales that invited us to sit with them. I remember my mom talking about how when we lived in Scotland people would just sit down with you in a restaurant. Even if you were in a booth they could come scoot in with you. Anyway, this family invited us to sit with them and their sweet kiddos. They thought it was funny that they were eating in England and having fish and chips. It was a little like us going to Scotland and going to McDonald's. We were so thankful to have a place to sit and have a fun family to talk to. The fish and chips were delicious!
 After lunch we decided to visit each of the countries in Epcot. We started in Canada where we visited the KidCot spot. The kids got to decorate Duffy the bear there. In each country we found the Kidcot spot and they got got a stamp. In several of the countries the stamper also wrote the kids names in the language of the country. I think they each had their names written in Arabic, Japanese and Chinese. They each also got the stamp for the year they were born. Bobby and I are both year of the Tiger. One of the funniest parts of the kids getting the stamps was that for each stamp on the handle their bear got a new power. One of them included poop power. I don't know...I'm just the mom. :)
 Another fun kids activity was a KimPossible mission. The kids got a cell phone that gave instructions on where to go next. Their mission was in France. It was really a neat experience. They had to stand in certain spot and got their photo taken by a camera on the top of the Eiffel Tower. The only issue with this was the cell phone was really loud. There was one spot that was really quiet and they got a few "looks" when they listened to the message.

While in France, we saw this street performer. I cannot tell you how impressed my kiddos were with this man balancing way up on top of the chairs! Munchkin made sure she was up close so if they needed volunteers she could offer her services. :)
We just happened to see a line start forming in Morocco and discovered it was for Aladdin and Jasmine. Since Jasmine was not one of the princesses we met at The Royal Table we decided to stand in line and wait. It was not a terribly long wait but during that time I discovered what Bobby really thought of Epcot...He called it Shopcot. :) I have to admit, even though it was fun to go to the different countries it really was mostly shopping back in that area.
One of our favorite countries was Norway. Bobby is half Swedish but the Norwegian people painted on the walls in the line for the Viking ship ride could have been directly related to him. The ride was not super exciting but the kids really liked it..even if they were a little scared of the trolls. Even scared though, Munchkin slaughtered this friendly looking guy...
Once we finally got through all of the countries we headed back to Spaceship earth and took the ride. I am fairly certain I may have slept for a little bit on that ride. I remember going on it when I was very little but it is a very faded memory. There were all kinds of games and fun things to do when you got off the rides. One of the kids favorites was Power City. They got to play virtual hockey and save the cities.
Finally, it was time for dinner. We had a reservation at The Garden Grill in "The Land". We got to meet Chip and Dale, Harvest Mickey and Harvest Goofy. There are several fun aspects to this restaurant. 1) It revolves, by the time you are done eating you have made it almost all the way around the circle. 2) It is a buffet but you don't have to get up to go get your food. The servers bring you more of anything you want. 3) You get to meet more characters...once again though we had already met Mickey and Goofy at least twice. 4) The food is delicious! The menu is set and and it is served family style. The kids ate off the grownup platters and we ate off the kid platters. We were so stuffed by the time we were done I wasn't sure we could walk to the fireworks!

While Bobby was watching fireworks with Munchkin, I was back at MouseGear picking up an extra clothing item that we needed. Let's just say there was an extra run to the restroom after Little Man left Duffy the bear in the stall after having a clothing change. We managed to get back to the bus and get on it fairly quickly. When we got back to the hotel Bobby took one of the kids swimming while I tried to log on to the computer to get some work done. The connection was not working so I gave up and figured I could do what I needed to when we got home. We all collapsed that night happy that it had been such a fun day! :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

{TWD} Classic Brownies and Retroactive Recipes

 Here it is Tuesday and miracle of miracles I am actually posting! I have been baking but if you have been keeping up with my Disney posts I am obviously a slacker of a blogger. A big thank you to Anne of Anne Strawberry for choosing Classic Brownies, Gaye from Laws of the Kitchen for choosing Tropical Crumble,  Margie from Tea and Scones for choosing Golden Brioche Loaves, and Jessica of My Baking Heart for choosing Chocolate Spice Quickies.
First of all the brownies. You just have to love Dorie's recipes. These were very straight forward. They took one bowl and I was able to adapt them to my own taste. I do not like nuts in brownies. I think they are an abomination! So there. I was also out of vanilla. My sweet husband and kiddos baked me a cake and I knew I was low on vanilla but forgot until I was already melting the chocolate for the brownies. A quick search for a vanilla substitute led me to add some almond extract. It was a very different taste but it was really good. I know it looks like there are nuts in these but looks are deceiving.... those are peanut butter chips. My kids ate four while they were still warm and I sent some with my husband this morning. He said he really liked the almond flavor in them. So yay! Win! I will definitely make these again and will probably double the recipe the next time. 

The tropical crumble was a delicious recipe. What isn't with that much butter in it? I was planning on trying to pawn this off on the teachers so I lined a muffin tin. stuffed from phyllo dough in the liners and spooned the mango/lime mixture into each one. I topped them with the crumble and popped them in the oven. 

I knew my husband would not have anything to do with a tropical crumble. First of all it has mango and second you cook the fruit. So, I gave them to my kids and their friends that came home from school with them. My daughter kind of liked this, the other little girl really liked it. My son was not a fan and the other little boy seemed to be scared of it. When their mom got to my house I gave a tropical crumble cupcake thing to her. She loved it and said it was so gourmet! She caters so I thought that was fun to hear from her!

 This tropical crumble doesn't look that great but it was really tasty. 

 I actually made these Golden Brioche Loaves the same day as the crumble. I was hoping my hubs would eat them up but he has started a health challenge at work so he didn't eat as much of them as I thought he would. We all really liked these loaves a lot. I am glad I looked ahead because they took a long time to make. They were worth it though.

 Last but definitely not least were the Chocolate Spice Quickies. Outside of the resting time in the fridge they were certainly quick. I made a double batch as I planned on taking them to my students. My sweet son said the dough looked like poo. I did not share that with my students. :) One student said these tasty little cookies tasted like Christmas and I have to agree. One suggestion was to serve them with raspberry jam. I didn't but it did make a fun picture. :)
 I am really hoping to get back in the swing of things. If you haven't already you should check out Dorie's Baking From My Home to Yours. It is a fantastic cookbook with delicious recipes!

I'm Thir-ee seven! I'm Thir-ee Seven! I'm No' Old!

So, I did turn thirty seven a week or so ago but my name is not Dennis and I am a woman. :) Those of you that get all that can be my friend.

Thirty seven...I guess that is on the downhill slide to 40. My mom likes to call and tease me about it but then she is 22 years older than me... She asks me sometimes how old I feel because she still feels much younger in her head than she is in the mirror. I do feel younger than thirty seven.

You'd think by now I would have some things figured what I want to be when I grow up, how to get in shape, how to get my kids to mind all the time and how to keep my house clean. But I don't. I would like to have a bakery or be a photographer but I struggle with the time away from my family. I would love to get in shape but I would like to have a bakery. ;) And I just try to pray and ask advice from others that have gone before me in the trenches of motherhood. As far as keeping my house clean...well if I invite people over that motivates me to at lease keep the downstairs in some semblance of order.

As a 37 year old woman I am apparently not supposed to wear cartoon characters like Tinkerbell on my chest or behind. I am supposed to have a perfect house, clean and perfectly behaved children, the laundry done, a career and dinner on the table. I think my musical tastes are supposed to be more refined and after that I have no idea what is really expected of a 37 year old woman.

I have a Tinkerbell shirt and a Micky Mouse shirt, my house is far from perfect, my kids are bathed on a regular basis and while not perfectly behaved are sweet and loving and the good far outweighs the bad. The laundry often has to be rerun because I forget about it (a dash of white vinegar helps the mildew smell go away), I am teaching (which I love) and sometimes have dinner ready. Since our dining room table is usually covered in mail, projects, and other various flotsam we often eat in the living room. I like the cheeseball pop music on the radio. It makes me think of going dancing in my college years.

Anyway. Here I am, 37. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a baker, an aspiring photographer, an organizer, a girl still afraid of what others will think of her, a Christian who know it doesn't matter what others think, and someone with seriously conflicting emotions. :)

Here is to 37!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Disney Day 4 : Not Disney, Universal

 Day 4 of our fabuloso vacation started on a bit of a sleepy note. This child is very much like her daddy, and is not really a morning person. We were able to finally drag everyone out of bed though for a quick breakfast at the All Star Music Resort food court. It was fine but not someplace we wanted to eat every meal.

One last surprise I managed to keep (Bobby is a fortress, but it is hard for me to keep stuff from the kids) was that we were going to Universal Islands of Adventure and Harry Potter World. Once our Mickey shaped waffles were consumed we were able to head out to our car.  Universal is only about 14 miles from Disney so it was no problem to jump in the car and head up there. We did have to make a brief stop at Walgreens for Bandaids though as we were really suffering from the blisters on our feet.

I took a quick video of the kids on the way and revealed that we were headed to Harry Potter World. Little Man could care less about Harry Potter but was thrilled to find out he was going to get to see Spiderman!
 I knew ahead of time that parking was going to cost $15 (at Disney we could park for free at the parks but we used the buses so this was the only time we moved our car all week). As we got in line for parking though Bobby spied a sign for preferred parking. It was $5 more but it was supposedly closer and all on the same level. We decided that since out feet were already feeling like they were going to fall off less walking was a good idea. Now, we intended to head straight for Harry Potter World but Little Man saw the Dr. Seuss tram and really wanted to ride it. The line wasn't too bad so we acquiesced. The kids wanted to ride together in the front row so we sat behind them and enjoyed watching them enjoy the ride. It was pretty slow so no one freaked out. We got to meet The Grinch in Seuss Island, rode the carousel (which we discovered each of our Seussical animals did different things besides going up and down), and walked through the Seuss maze.

Then, we finally made it to Harry Potter World.....with everyone else in Florida.... You might remember that Harry Potter 7 was just released.
 Munchkin has read the first 3 Harry Potter books and has seen the first 4 movies. She was Hermione for Halloween last year and was absolutely excited to go to Hogsmeade. I don't know how I managed to get a photo of my kids by the train without anyone else because it was packed!
 After seeing the train our first stop was to ride The Forbidden Journey. You are not to take anything on the ride which was kind of a bummer. I wish I had had my camera with me because the line wound through the castle. You got to go through Dumbledores office, through an area where the paintings were talking and moving, and saw Harry, Ron and Hermione in a classroom where it "snowed". To encourage people not to take anything they provided lockers for free while you were on the ride. The time was a bit daunting (120 minute wait) but it ended up being about an hour. They hid the line well but had big sprayers and fans to keep people cool. When we finally got to the ride Little Man was out of sorts. They made him get measured and then seated us and then made us get up and move to another car...Little Man and transition, especially in a dark area was not really happening. He was already upset when the ride started and he was not happy at the end. Munchkin insisted that she did not want to go on any roller coasters that went upside down but this was went pretty close. I did have to close my eyes in some sections (motion sickness) but thought the ride was fun. It was pretty scary for little kids though. I would go on it again and Munchkin was thrilled with the ride. If we had time she would have gone again for sure!
 Our next ride was Flight of the Hippogriff. It was a small wooden roller coaster that Little Man loved and terrified Munchkin. She screamed her head off the entire time! Hogsmeade was like a scene from the movies. The stores, the forced perspective, the snow. If there were fewer people we would have spent much more time there. We could not leave Harry Potter world without getting Butterbeer. I made Bobby stand in line for a few minutes while I checked out Honeydukes. We purchased 1 frozen butterbeer for the four of us to share. When it is almost the same amount for a drink as it is to park you only get 1. However, 1 was plenty for us and it hit the spot. And, Munchkin got to keep the cup as a souvenir.
 After Harry Potter World we needed a break from walking around so our next event was Matt Hoffman's Aggro Circus. When we walked in my sweet hubby asked if there were certain places we needed to sit. Because he was just being polite the guy took us over to sit in the reserved seating area. Which means we were front and center for all of the action. It was a really entertaining show and the kids were completely impressed (heck, I was impressed) with all of the stunts. Once all of the death defying events were over the same worker came over and asked if we would like to meet a couple of the guys. Both the guys that came out (the BMX stunt guy and the skateboarder) were very nice to the kids and gave them autographs and stickers.
 Munchkin had Harry Potter World, Little Man was elated that our next stop was the Spiderman ride. We waited about 30 minutes to get on the 3D ride. We tried to get a smashed penny in line but the machine stole our money. If we ever needed Spiderman fighting for justice it was right then! ;) This was another ride where I needed to close my eyes for a few minutes but it was really fun. Both kids thought it was AWESOME!!!! As luck would have it Spiderman was signing autographs right across the street when we got off the ride. My picture of the kids with Spidey may not be awesome but the one taken by the park was terrible. The kids eyes were closed and they were making weird faces.
 We had been walking and exploring the park for hours and we were starting to think about lunch. Bobby mentioned the Mithros restaurant. There was a sign on it that said it was the number one theme park restaurant so we thought we would try it. However, before we could get to it we saw another restaurant that advertised fajitas, wood fired pizza and buffalo wings. All food items we like so we stopped at Confisco instead of Mithros. It. was. so. good! The prices were reasonable, think Chili's, and the best part was free refills! I probably downed 5 diet cokes and I know I was not even close to keeping up with Bobby and his cokes! Just think Florida, in August, in 100 degree heat and 95% humidity. Then you get to a restaurant with free refills on sodas...AHHHHHHHH!
 Feeling refreshed we made our way to a stunt show called The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad. It was pretty entertaining. Next up though was the Jurassic Park area. At this point it has started to rain so we spent some time hanging with the dinos. There was a great exploring area for the kids to play in. Not only did they get to take care of dinosaur eggs they got to combine their dna with that of a dino. A puff of air stood in for a needle to take a skin sample and they put their face on the screen (I was wishing for antibacterial gel at this moment in time) so they could see what a dino mixed with them would look like.
 Munchkin managed to get soaked by the Jurassic ride without even riding it. Little Man didn't want to ride and it shut down during the rain storm anyway. We may have gone on it but we were getting kind of tired. As soon as it opened up we went on Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges. Once again we were completely soaked. We tried to dry off a little bit on the Me Ship, The Olive but it was futile. I had an extra plastic bag from Disney so I put my backpack inside and pulled the straps through the plastic bag handles. This enabled me to wear the back pack without getting it soaked. You can say it...ingenious! :)

Apparently my kids didn't think they were soaked enough so they convinced Bobby to take them on Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls. I waited on the bridge so I could get a picture of them. It was possible...they got even more soaked than they were before.
 Little Man really wanted to get a smashed Spiderman penny so we made out way back to the city. He is actually showing his penny in this next picture. Around this area was also Dr. Doom's Fearfall. Bobby really wanted to ride so I stayed with the kids while he went. He got back to us and convinced Munchkin to go with him a second time. They got to the point where she was strapped in and then freaked. They had to get her off the ride. She was a little bummed that she didn't do it but was also a little relieved.
Our last ride for the night was The Cat in the Hat and we took another quick run through the Seuss maze. We stopped in City Walk at Cinnabon and then headed back to our hotel. Dinner was late that night in the food court at the hotel. I had to do some work that week but was not able to get access to anything. While I tried to do that Bobby took Little Man swimming while Munchkin and I hung out in the room. Once they got back we all passed out in anticipation of Day 5 of our vacation.

Universal Tip #1 You can purchase a fast pass for almost the price of your ticket. If you are willing to pay you get to walk on to any ride at the front of the line. It was too much for us but it looked like it would have been worth it.

Universal Tip #2 This is also a Disney tip. This was the night I got the advice to wrap my feet in duct tape. If I had any I would have. My feet hurt!

Universal tip #3 Find a restaurant to sit down in for a meal in the heat of the day. It is quite refreshing.

I am really glad that we did the 4 day park hopper with Disney and took the time to go to Universal as well. I am also glad we did NOT do a park hopper for Universal and only did the one park ticket. It would have been too much for one day. All in all a great day at Universal!! :)

Next Up: Day 6, Epcot.