Monthly Archives: April 2012

Quick Hit: Wowie!

We just got home from our vacation.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful to step into my own home before.

When I came back, I had more than 1,000 items in my reader (it stops keeping count after 1,000).  Did I miss anything big, or particularly funny, or important?  Guide me, my friends, to that which I may have missed but need to see!

Also?  This.

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Quick Hit: Moving Again!

It’s 3:50 on Sunday afternoon, and the Chili Family is just pulling out of the Sanford Amtrak station. We should be in VA by 9:30 tomorrow, and then home by about 11. More later! Choo-Choo!!

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Quick Hit: Chef Mickey’s

Character breakfast at the Contemporary resort at Chef Mickey’s.  My daughters are both teenagers, but they insisted on this outing.  That makes me smile.

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Fishy Friday

The Chilis spent today at Sea World!  We got a gorgeous day for it; clear and bright and not too hot.  In fact, we couldn’t have ordered better weather for our week here; we’ve been really lucky.

Our adventures at Sea World started with the dolphin show, pretty much as soon as we got there.

I love dolphin shows.  In fact, I love pretty much all the shows at aquariums.  When I was in second or third grade (probably third), I was taken on a field trip to the New England Aquarium.  While I was there, I saw a seal and sea lion show, and I decided then and there that I was going to be a seal trainer when I grew up.  Of course, I don’t have an aptitude for biology (and I have a wicked shellfish allergy), so it never panned out, but there’s still a special place in my heart for those critter-human bonds that I see in those shows.

After that, we met up with the Lady TwoBlueDays (Gerry had rotten sleep last night, and decided to sit this trip out), we made our way to Journey to Atlantis.  The last time we were at Sea World, Punkin was about 8, and this ride scared the shit out of her then.  She was enamored of mermaids, and the ride has a mermaid-turned-sea witch in the story line, and that didn’t go over so well with my baby.  This time, though, she was ready (and Bean was finally tall enough to ride), so I held everyone’s bags and hats and off they went!

We had gotten ourselves passes to the new Turtle Trek (which opened today, in fact), so we headed out of Atlantis and got in line for that.  It’s a 360°, 3D movie that follows a turtle hatch-ling from the beach, through a bunch of different adventures (including a close encounter with a shark) and back to the beach where she returns to lay her own eggs.

We decided, at that point, that we were hungry, so we headed off to find some lunch.  Our tickets came with a meal, and the girls decided they wanted to try the pizza/pasta buffet, so that’s where we aimed.  The line to buy tickets for the place was too long for the Lady Days, though, so we split up for a little bit at that point.  We reconvened at the kid play area (the girls remembered fondly the multi-level play place in that spot), and the girls, Babycakes, and Mr. Chili rode the Shamu Coaster, just for nostalgia’s sake.

The next stop was a Cirque-like show that told the story of a fisherman who finds himself under the sea, where he falls in love with a beautiful… something… and witnesses a power struggle between this beautiful thing and a jealous sea witch.  After a lot of flying, contorting, and tumbling, true love prevails in the end.  It was a wholly satisfying way to spend 20 minutes.

By then, lunch had settled sufficiently that the more adventurous in our party (Mr. Chili, Bluemoon and Babycakes, specifically) headed for the Manta roller coaster.

This thing is terrifying, even from the ground.  Riders are suspended face-down, and shot through a series of twists and loops and… well, see for yourself.

I know you can’t tell, but that’s Mr. Chili in the front row, screaming his fool head off.  They came off the ride with enormous grins on their faces and, since there was no line, we sent them on to ride a second time.

I’m glad we did, because our next stop was the Kraken coaster.  Bluemoon and Babycakes managed to get a ride in, but Mr. Chili was in line for the front car and, in the time he waited, the ride ended up experiencing technical difficulties sufficient to shut it down.  No Kraken for my mister this trip.

Once that was done, the TwoBlue ladies were pretty fried, so we parted ways one last time.  They headed for home and we headed for the Arctic Adventure.  We knew (from unpleasant experience) that the motion-movie ride was, well, unpleasant, so we skipped that part and did the walk-through instead.  We saw a couple of beluga whales, a polar bear, and a couple of (ginormous!) walrus.  It was fun.

We wandered a bit, making our way to the killer whale show to end up our day, when Bean asked if she could get an airbrush tattoo.  We weren’t opposed to the idea, so Bean, Punk, and I were painted; Bean got an airbrush ying-yang symbol on her ankle, and Punk and I got henna tattoos on our inner forearms (Punk got a rose, I got a dragonfly).  I’m using it as practice; I’m thinking of getting a white-ink tattoo in that spot, so I’m seeing how I like this first.

Our last stop was the killer whale show, which was very exciting – and VERY wet for the people in the first 11 or so rows.  There were a number of animals in the show – I didn’t realize how many killer whales they had – and they bring out one particularly big one to soak the crowd; the thing just goes around the perimeter of the tank, scooping water with its huge tail and flinging it into the stands.  When they tell you you’re going to get wet, they aren’t kidding; this isn’t just incidental splashing from the animals’ jumps; this is intentional soaking.  We were in the first set of dry rows, though, so we were safe.

It was a wholly lovely day, and I’m glad we did it.

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Busy, Busy!

So!  On Tuesday, I updated our vacation through Monday.  Here’s what’s happened since:

On Tuesday, we slept in.  After sleeping like crap on the train and having a pretty full day on Monday, we needed it.  Since Babycakes is in school this week and BlueMoon had work to do, we decided to head out on our own and made for Downtown Disney.

Downtown Disney, for the uninitiated, is basically a big, pretty, well-kept shopping center.  We found a good parking spot and headed for the Lego store, which is always one of our favorite spots.

We wandered through there for a bit, admiring some of the architectural sets – did you know that you can get Lego kits for the Space Needle and Falling Waters and other such wonders? – then headed for the gigantic Disney store across the way.

Let me back up for a minute.  I brought a bunch of Hydroflask bottles with us on this vacation.  I wanted to have them for the car rides, mostly, but they come in handy for keeping water during outings, and the girls decided that they wanted to bring one each on this trip.  Mr. Chili warned the girls that they might not want to bring them out of the car, but they insisted.  Bean made it to the Disney Store – 10 minutes into our visit – before she lost track of her bottle (which, not for nothing, was the bottle I keep at school, with all the equality stickers on it).  We retraced every step the kid made and practically stalked the lost and found desk, but it never showed up.  We’re going to check back on Saturday after our character breakfast; I’m really hoping someone found it and turned it in; I like that bottle.

ANYWAY, after spending more time looking for the damned bottle than actually looking at all the fun stuff in the store, we decided we were hungry, so we started making our way toward the Rainforest Cafe.  Along the way, we stopped in a shop that offers pretty glass things – vases, figurines, sculptures, that sort of thing – and spent some time mesmerized by a man fashioning a dragon out of glass rods.

Mr. Chili went ahead to put our name in the Cafe, but he needn’t have done it; there was practically no wait, so the girls and I met him there and had a yummy lunch amidst the animatronic jungle creatures, the giant fish tanks, and the thunderstorms that roll through every half hour.

After lunch, we did a little more strolling, had an amazing sundae at the Ghirardelli store, went back through the Disney Store one more time (still no luck.  Phooey!), and then headed out to meet Dude and his family for a quick visit.  CC (my boss, and Dude’s girlfriend/partner/unofficial fiancee) and her family (including Bart, my school son) were visiting Dude, and we wanted to spend at least a LITTLE time with them while we were all here.  We lounged by the pool while Punkin and Bean had a dip, then parted ways in time to make it to BlueMoon’s house for dinner (which consisted of yummy sweet and sour meatballs over rice).

We made an early night of it; Babycakes had school in the morning and the Chilis were still a little tired, so after we watched an episode of Once Upon a Time that Gerry had Tivoed, we Chilis trundled off to bed.

Wednesday morning found BlueMoon meeting me for a walk around Gerry’s neighborhood.  It was lovely to spend a little alone time with my friend, and to get some exercise in.  Afterward, she headed home to do some work while the rest of us had a lazy morning – after my shower, I spent some really lovely quiet time on the back porch with a book.  Around noon, we left the TwoBlueDays and headed for Mt. Dora, where we’d chartered a boat tour – the same one I took when I was here in February.

We went to a Five Guys burger joint before the tour and had a ridiculously yummy lunch, then made for the lake, where we met our guide and hopped onto these cute little pontoon boats for a tour of the lake and an adjoining canal.

We saw bald eagles, blue herons, and all manner of other birds (several varieties of ducks and vultures, and a bunch of other waterfowl whose names escape me at the moment).  We also saw a number of turtles and at least 6 alligators!  I was pretty excited by that; we hadn’t encountered any gators when I was here in February.  That trip is a blast, and I’m really glad we did it.  I suspect that might become a regular event for our Florida vacations.

After that, we headed home in time for supper at Chez TwoBlueDay, but someone mentioned food trucks, so BlueMoon checked facebook and found out where the trucks would be parked, so we decided to put off Honey’s crock pot barbecue chicken until tomorrow and made for the park.  Mr. Chili and Punk shared an extravagant turkey sandwich, I had some yummy bbq brisket, and Bean had a kid-friendly combo of grilled cheese and mac and cheese.  I also bought a dozen really decadent cupcakes that we brought back home to share.  We all went well over our calorie allowance for the day, but I don’t think any of us really cared.

Today was spent mostly indoors, as the girls were careless in their application of sunscreen prior to the boat ride and ended up with sunburned thighs and shoulders.  We lazed around for most of the morning, headed to a Macaroni Grille for lunch, then found a movie theatre in which to hide out from the sun.  We saw The Lorax, which was cute, but a little too young for our kids, I think.  I appreciated the message, being the pinko-commie, tree lover that I am, but I think I would have rather seen a different movie.  Regardless, it was a perfectly acceptable way to spend a sunless afternoon.  We made it home in time to take the girls to the pool (well after sun curfew, but we still gooped them up with sunscreen), then I drove back while Daddy and the girls walked to Gerry’s.  BlueMoon and Babycakes joined us there and we shared Honey’s chicken (and some very yummy homemade cole slaw and macaroni salad), then headed out for frozen yogurt.

Tomorrow, we plan to take in as much of Sea World as we possibly can.  Expect to find a couple of videos here; Mr. Chili and BlueMoon plan on taking on both Manta AND Kraken.  I think they’re both crazy.

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Nearly Wordless Wednesday

I always take a picture of my feet on vacation.  I have no idea why.

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Ten Things Tusday

Ten Things about our vacation (so far!):

1.  We had a good and uneventful ride from our house to Dudley’s on Friday.  I yanked the girls out of school at noon (nothing gets done after lunch on the Friday before a vacation; trust me) and we were out the door at 12:30.  There were one or two tight-ish spots in New York and New Jersey, but we were expecting them, so it was no big deal.  We wanted to go as far as possible before we stopped, so when the Tiguan was good and thirsty, we stopped to fill her up, then went a couple more exits to feed ourselves.  We had about half an hour at an Applebee’s just shy of the NJ/PA border, then shot straight through to Dudley’s in northern Maryland.

2.  Saturday dawned bright and clear and gorgeous, so we all – us, Dudley, Squeaky, and Dudley’s younger son, Wrestler – headed south to the Capitol.  We parked at Shady Grove…

Here’s Mr. Chili doing the “you are HERE!” thing with Bean

…got ourselves some fare cards, and rode the Metro to Smithsonian and emerged right in front of the castle.  (and I managed to de-magnetize Mr. Chili’s card by putting it in my (magnetically fastened) phone case.  Whoopsie!  But, unlike Charlie, Mr. Chili was able to get out.)

From there, we split up; Mr. Chili took Bean and headed with the Dudley family to the Air and Space Museum while Punkin and I made for the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  I had forgotten that one needed a ticket to get to the main exhibit (they try to regulate the number of people going through at once, hence the ticketing scheme) and by the time we got there, the tickets were being set for 2:30.  Since we’d agreed to meet back up with our party at 2, we had to satisfy ourselves with the un-regulated parts of the museum.  We took these in and then spent some time in the gift shop, where I bought more postcards for my classroom walls.  On our way out, we walked by the understated memorial for Stephen Johns, the guard who was gunned down in 2009 in an attack by an 88 year-old antisemite.  I found myself weeping.

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3.  Lunch was had in the East Wing of the National Gallery.  We enjoyed the LED exhibit in the walkway and spent some quiet moments in front of the waterfall.

We cruised through this gift shop, too (I know, I know; one doesn’t experience museums through gift shops, but we didn’t have time to take in more than one or two museums as it was, so I’m giving us a pass on this)…

4. …and then we made our way through the Sculpture Gardens….

5. …To the Natural History Museum.  I’ve been to this museum a number of times, and I never seem to tire of it. 

While everyone gushes about the Hope Diamond, my favorite exhibit in the gems and minerals collection is this flawless crystal ball.

6.  We were all pretty whipped by the time we all reconnected, so we tumbled back on the Metro, got back to our cars, and headed for dinner at a Red Robin (YUM!).  Punk and I split a burger; it was tasty.

7.  The next morning, the Chili family bade goodbye to the Dudleys and made our way to the Annex of the Air and Space Museum at Dulles airport.  Mr. Chili was iffy about it; he was afraid we wouldn’t have enough time before we had to leave for the train, but I’m glad we went; we saw lots of cool things, including the Concorde, the Enola Gay, and the Space Shuttle Discovery!

8.  We had an uneventful trip to the train station, dropped off the car, got our boarding passes, and hopped right on the train.  Mr. Chili had scored us sleeper cars – the girls’ on one side, ours on the other – and off we went!

9.  We got to Sanford ahead of schedule, but made up for it by having to wait for the yard crew to come on duty.  Ours was the 15th or so car to be unloaded, so we didn’t have to wait long for that, which helped.  We got to Gerry’s, showered, then went to the airport to pick up a mini van that would hold us all so we didn’t have to drive two cars to St. Augustine, which was our Monday afternoon destination.  We stopped for subs (I had a very yummy steak, mushroom, onion, and cheese), then made for this beautiful, historic city.  We spent some time in the lobby of the Flagler College,

which is gorgeous, then did some shopping (and had some ice cream), then headed to the Castillo de San Marcos by the water

10.  The rest of Monday was rounded out by dinner at a Sweet Tomatoes, then an unceremonious falling into bed.  It has been a wonderful – but busy – couple of days.  I am so incredibly lucky to be able to have experiences like this, and to have all of the wonderful, loving people in my life to share it with.

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