Saturday, August 27, 2016

{Disney} Magic Kingdom

(Day 2)

The girls slept in and I knew we were in for a slow-paced morning.  We've established ourselves as late park arrivers.  To me, it's not worth waking the kids early, rushing through showers and breakfast to make it to the parks before the official open if the kids (and possibly adults) are going to end up grumpy.  It's part of my Disney Without Tears program.

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As with dinner the night before, we ate breakfast at the Contempo Cafe.  Grammy and I shared a grilled breakfast sandwich, which was tasty, and then picked at whatever the kids didn't eat.

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It was finally time to head to our favorite park, Magic Kingdom.  From the Contemporary, you can either walk to Magic Kingdom or take the monorail.  I didn't want to burn the girls out early so we rode the monorail.  

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Our first stop was the princess meet and greet for Rapunzel and Princess Tiana.

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Prior to this trip, the girls had said that they wanted to do more rides versus character meets.  But as you can see, it turns out they still love meeting the characters.

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The wait time for Small World was a bit longer than I would have liked but we waited and rode it because we were in the area and sometimes fitting in rides and attractions around FastPasses is like piecing together a puzzle.

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Next up was Splash Mountain.  It was steamy outside and the girls pleaded to ride this.  Grammy doesn't do rides like Splash Mountain so I was on my own with the three kids, which is fine now that they are older.  Two of them sat right in front of me in the log and all was good.  We then headed over to Pirates of the Caribbean and then decided to grab some snack items from Casey's for lunch.  The fries were good.  Meh on the other items.  After snacking, the kids wanted to watch (ride?) the Carousel of Progress.  If you need a place to cool down, head to the Carousel of Progress.  It's 20 minutes in duration and I doubt the theater ever fills to capacity.

At this point, Rich was on the Magical Express so we headed back to the resort to meet him and give the girls a little bit of time to swim.  The walk from Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary took us 11 minutes.  We had somewhat early dinner reservations at 1900 Park Fare, which I'll review in another post to keep this one from becoming too lengthy, and then we headed back to Magic Kingdom just in time to use our FastPasses for the Haunted Mansion.

The Main Street Electrical Parade, which Disney plans to retire this coming fall, was scheduled for 9:00 that night with fireworks at 10:00.  We found front row spots along Main Street near the bathrooms (important) to watch the parade.

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We had the girls decide if they wanted to watch the fireworks or not and they voted no because of the crowds.  We opted to take advantage of the low (and in some cases, nonexistent) wait times and met Ariel and then rode Under the Sea - Journey of The Little Mermaid.

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(I feel like the lighting in many character meet and greets has been upgraded over the years but this one was certainly funky.  I suppose it went with the whole underwater theme.  I left it as is.  So while the color in the PhotoPass photos may have looked better because of the flash, Ariel had her eyes closed in every single one.  Ha!)

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Before we headed back to the resort, we rode Splash Mountain. Again.  At the girls' request.  This time we were completely soaked.  Near the end, our log stopped due to a traffic jam and there was a little waterfall right next to us, which sprayed Anna until we moved.  She just looked at me and calmly said, "I'm getting soaked here."  Even though we didn't stake out a spot to watch the fireworks, we were able to see some of the show as we walked between rides.

It was so nice to be able to exit the park and walk back to the resort.  No crowds.  No waiting for a monorail.  No waiting for a boat.  No waiting for a bus.  We could move at our own pace.  I was extremely happy with how much we were able to fit in considering we hadn't spend the entire day in the park.
  
Next up:  Another magical day!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

{Disney} Welcome to Orlando!

In traditional The Great Umbrella Heist fashion, I'm going to write up a trip report for this Disney vacation just as I have in the past.  I enjoy reading trip reports, whether Disney related or not, and that carries over to writing my own trip reports.  I'll also include some restaurant reviews and the girls' opinions and, of course, give you all my planning tips.  Expect to see quite a bit of Disney here over the next few weeks.

(Day 1)

One of the great benefits of not working is time.  I'm not a fan of morning flights so because we had time and in order to help in calming some of my flying anxiety, Grammy, the girls and I flew out of Providence at 1:30 in the afternoon.  Again, all of the employees at this airport, from TSA to Southwest, were incredibly nice.  My dad accompanied us to the airport so he could drive our van back home.  Where was Rich?  Working.  Don't worry.  He flies out and joins us the next day.  The logistics for this vacation were a bit funky.  All will make sense when I explain it in another post.

Because we gave ourselves plenty of time to drive to the airport, check bags and clear security (there was no line), there wasn't enough time to eat lunch at home.  We opted to grab burgers from Johnny Rockets in the airport.  They didn't have kids meals listed and I've never eaten at a Johnny Rockets with the girls so I didn't know if they had a kids menu or not.  I should have asked but it didn't matter.  I bought the regular burgers and the girls devoured them.

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Our flight left on time and we didn't encounter any issues, outside of some slight turbulence as we were approaching Orlando.  Flying with the girls was a breeze.  They pack their own carry-on bags with entertainment that includes books, math workbooks, and dolls.  Emily even brought along bunny slippers for comfort.  I sat in a row with Emily and Anna while Allie and Grammy sat behind us.  The plane was 100% full but it appeared that everyone was able to sit with or near those they were traveling with.  I know that open seating isn't always a breeze, especially on a full plane.

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When we landed in Orlando, it was pouring rain and the girls, remembering our last Disney vacation of rain, were upset.  I reassured them that it was just an afternoon storm which would pass through and promised they would be able to swim at the resort that night.  We had gate checked Anna's stroller but because of lightning, we were told we needed to pick up the stroller at baggage claim.  Because we were using Disney's Magical Express, we hadn't planned on hanging around baggage claim.  This was an unexpected change of plans and I brushed it off, thinking it would give us time to use the bathroom and I could cath Anna.  Well, we ended up waiting at baggage claim for two hours for that stroller.  Apparently, the lightning was so severe they were unable to unload the luggage from the planes.  We should have wandered around the airport in search of dinner but I never expected to wait that long and you reach a point where you think, This has to be it!

I'll talk more about Magical Express later but for now, I'll share that it was efficient, well organized and a pleasant ride to the Contemporary.  Before we checked into our room, we headed straight for the Contempo Cafe for dinner.  I've seen this restaurant awarded "best quick service" by Disney foodies.  So look, a kiddie meal is a kiddie meal no matter which quick service place is serving it up.  Grammy and I shared the Caprese Flatbread and while it was quite tasty, the middle was a bit soggy.

You may or may not know this about Disney but you can't make a reservation for more than one room in your name because it is physically impossible for you to stay in more than one room at a time.  If we were staying at the Hilton, for example, I could just call or go online and make a reservation for two rooms in my name.  When you make room reservations at a Disney resort, all of the people in the room need to be listed.  This links up to your magic bands, which allow you access to the room and holds your park tickets.  We had two rooms (one in my name and one in Grammy's) for every night of this vacation except for the first night because there were only five of us and rooms at the Contemporary can hold five guests.  Because the guests in that room the first night weren't going to be the same as the guests the remaining nights, this was a separate reservation.  I booked this vacation through a travel agent to take advantage of a magical deal and that first night was added on later, which is how I ended up with a separate reservation.  The separate reservation meant that technically we would have to check in twice and move rooms after that first night.  The travel agent suggested explaining the different reservations to the front desk upon check-in and seeing if there was a way for us to stay in the same room for all nights with a connecting room added on the second night.  Jonathan at the front desk was awesome and hooked us up.  To me, that's the Disney difference.  He actually thanked me for my patience.  I was patient because he was helping me out!  I know he could have easily said, "Sorry, no can do," but he didn't.    

Our room was on the ninth floor, facing Bay Lake.   The girls quickly changed into their bathing suits when we reached our room and we headed out to the pool, which was visible from our balcony.

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After swimming, we headed back up to our room to get everyone in bed.  We were a bit sidelined with the fireworks at Epcot though.  It was a late bedtime for the girls but we were on vacation.

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Coming up:  A full day of magic.

Monday, August 22, 2016

At the mouse house

Hi! We're on vacation down here in Florida at Disney.  I hope to have my first trip report post up later this week but I can't promise anything.  A few days after we return from vacation, the girls and I are heading down to the Cape for an overnight visit with a friend of mine who has twin girls.  It's funny how my girls always seem to get along really well with other multiples.  They all seem to understand each other.

One thing I realized in preparing for this trip is that I do not like packing.  Does anyone really enjoy packing?  I'm assuming it's because I'm packing for four people and not just myself.  We also have the additional items that we need to pack for Anna.  In a few years, the girls will be packing for themselves and I'll lament the loss of their littleness.

Have a great week!  I'll be back soon.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Fall Home Projects

When the girls return to school and I have a bit more time, I plan to tackle a few home decorating projects.  We've lived here for almost nine years and decorating has been at a minimum, mainly due to time.  Although this isn't decorating, I also need to clean out and organize every single closet in the house.  I know there are many, many items in my closet that can go.

The first floor of our home consists of five different spaces:  entry hall, front to back family room, dining room, kitchen and bath/laundry room.  When this house was on the market, the owners had a formal dining set in the dining room and then another dining area in the back of the family room, which is next to the kitchen.  Originally, we had the family room as a family room.  When the girls transitioned out of high chairs, we moved our dining room furniture to the back of the family room and turned the dining room into a playroom.  We did this because the dining room felt like wasted space.  No one ever used it.  The girls ate at a little table in the kitchen and Rich and I ate either at the kitchen counter or on the couches in the family room.  We eat meals as a family now and use our table in the family room all the time.

Our dining room furniture feels crowded in its current location and we have to move furniture if we want to open the table all the way to fit 8 people.  We've decided to return the playroom to its intended use as a dining room.  The girls don't have/need as many toys as when they were younger and I plan to use the space in the back of the family room as a play area. Honestly, half the time, they move toys to the family room when they are playing.  I'm going to paint the dining room and we are throwing around the idea of new furniture.  We purchased the set we have now for our home that was built in 1888.  I don't know. . .

I've had repainting the kitchen on my list for awhile now.  It's green and it needs to go.  Having a color on the walls combined with the cherry cabinets leaves the room feeling dark.  And it's horrible for photos, casting a weird tint.  I would love to rip out the entire kitchen and start fresh.  The cabinets, unfortunately, were not very well made and will eventually need to be replaced.  We've already had one pull apart and detach from the wall and the bottom of the main drawer that we use for utensils falls out if you aren't careful.  We haven't seriously considered a full kitchen renovation because if we're going to do it right, the wood floors covering the entire first floor would need to be refinished and nobody wants to deal with that.

Add the downstairs bathroom to the list of rooms to be repainted.  We may also replace the two couches that we've had in the family room since we moved in.  I may end up repainting the entire first floor when all is said and done.  Oh, I want to repaint the front door too!

There are some pieces of furniture in the girls' rooms that I need paint.  First on the list is chair for a vanity I snagged from the beach house and dates back to my grandmother.  It also needs a new seat cushion and cover.

So, yeah, lots of projects.  And who thought I was going to be looking for another job when the girls returned to school?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Thoughts on running

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Rich ran a 5K road race last weekend and later that day, he asked if I'd like to join a local running club with him.  "No" was my immediate response because I have zero interest in joining a running club.  I'm an introvert and running for me is mainly a solitary activity.  It gives me that alone time I crave in order to recharge.  This doesn't mean I don't ever run or want to run with others.  Rich and I used to run together quite often before the girls were born.  Right now, I'm content running solo.

When I was finally able to pick up running again back in June, Rich suggested that I train for a local 5K, specifically the one he ran last weekend.  Which, by the way, even if someone could have watched the girls, we wouldn't have been running together as he runs much, much faster that I do. Lately, I've been running to run, not to train for anything, and I'm fine with that.

My point is that when it comes to running, everyone is different.  Some people need to train for a race in order to feel motivated.  Others don't.  Some people run fast.  Others don't.  I was grumpy last week when it came to running because of how it's all changed over the years.  I first headed out to attempt to run around the block 20 some odd years ago when I was in college.  I hated running when I was in high school.  Remember the 12 minute mile test?  Hate.  But I always wanted to be able to run around the track with ease.  I started running for exercise and ended up thoroughly enjoying it.  I ran exclusively on the treadmill (because of where I lived) for years and years and then I met Rich, another runner.  Back then, I used to run five times a week.  I didn't need to train for motivation.  I guess I still don't.

Maybe because so many more people now call themselves runners, some feel the need to put down the slower folks.  Just a thought.

I had a good conversation with my sister-in-law last week.  We run comparable speeds and she's heard the "slow" talk as well.  After last week's grumpiness, I'm back to who cares.  I run what I run, get over it.  If you run faster, good for you.

I've been running two miles every time I head out and I know I'm not supposed to, but I find myself running "fast" each time.  Fast right now for me is a 10:00 - 10:15 minute mile.  It may be because I used to be able to easily run 10 minute miles so I'm just trying to get back to that standard.  Behind my right knee is prone to soreness.  I have scar tissue from when I dislocated my knee cap and coincidentally (or not) I had a running injury in that area many, many years ago.  It was acting up a few weeks ago so I dropped back my mileage (ha ha, can I even call it that?) but it's feeling better now.

So that's what I've been running which isn't much but it's better than sitting on the couch eating ice cream, which I'm still going to do but at least I ran first.