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California – Day 2

Day 2 of our California vacation started with an early-morning workout and a trek on the treadmill.  I never tired of the view . . . talk about motivating!

When I returned to the apartment, everyone was still asleep, which gave me time to shower and dress without hogging the bathroom.

When N woke up and saw what I was wearing (a cute tank top and blue jeans with holes), she strongly urged me to change, explaining that I would be very cold when we got to our destination.

Y’all, can I just be real here?  I like to dress up when we are out and about.  Call me high maintenance.  Whatever.

With that said, Rooster’s girl is super smart, and I trust her judgment.  So, I changed into a long-sleeve shirt and non-holey pants.  I did leave on my Vionic flip flops.  Ha!

Even with the wardrobe change, it wasn’t long before we were out the door for another adventure.  I took my knitting along for the ride.

Our destination?

Take a look at the video below . . .

It was the Golden Gate Bridge!!!!

Y’all, I was so excited!!

The neat thing is that you’ll just be driving along, round the curve, and BAM, it’s just there.

It is so gorgeous; the color specifically chosen to stand out against the landscape (I read this on a billboard you’ll see a photo of in a bit.

You can hear, in the video above, the kids explaining that people actually walk the bridge.  I’d read on a website not to do that, but I think if I ever go back, I wouldn’t mind.  Wouldn’t that make for some great photos – looking up at the architecture?

Rooster found a free place to park, kind of amazing given the high price of everything in California, and as soon as he opened his car door, I was EXTREMELY glad that I’d heeded N’s advice.

The wind was blowing fiercely, which you’ll also notice with my messy hair in the pictures that follow.

It was also f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g.

I had not expected this.  I mean, it was the middle of June . . . in North America.  It had been in the high 70’s the day before.  If I had worn the sundress from the day before, I would have been done for.

We carefully made out way down the street, under a short tunnel, and to the buildings that surround the base of the bridge.

First, a pit stop at the restroom where the line to the ladies area was long.

The area felt a little dirty and very touristy, but hey, the bridge is a landmark that begs the adoration of the masses.

We’d packed leftovers from the day before to eat as a picnic lunch.  Our original intent had been to visit Crissy Field, another popular tourist spot; however, the weather was foggy, overcast, and cold, so we didn’t.  Instead, we headed toward the Roundhouse Cafe.

It reminded me of something you’d see in one of the lands of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.  It was round and had tall windows with a bar and stools running around it.  There were no “tables” to speak of.  There was also a place to order food, which we didn’t need.

We set ourselves up and ate while enjoying the view.

Y’all, I was so giddy.  I couldn’t believe that I was sitting within throwing distance of the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE.

Isn’t that crazy?

I saw people from all walks of life walking up and then down the steps.  One gal was a runner . . . wearing a sports bra and capris.  Brrrrr!

I saw ladies wearing heels (heck to the no) and families with young children.

This place truly was a mecca, of sorts.

After we finished eating, we headed out and made our way down to a more scenic area  near the water where we could grab some pictures.

Of course, there was the selfie . . .

And then the selfie with the Mr.

After taking a group selfie, it was time for pictures with the Mr., which Rooster snapped for us.

I took a few pictures of the kids too.  They’re seriously precious, let me tell you.

It was so foggy that I couldn’t see too far out over the water.  Alcatraz was barely visible, but honestly, I wasn’t sure what to look for, so there was that.

I did manage to capture some pretty neat photos of the bridge, enshrouded by clouds.

Doesn’t this look like something you’d see in a movie?

The view was awe-inspiring.  It’s just amazing how much knowledge God has imparted to mankind to build such incredible structures like this bridge.

Before leaving, I wanted another photo.  I think this one will find its way into a frame.

The cold got to us, so we carefully made our way up the steep trail and visited the shop that sits at the base of the bridge.

We made a couple of small purchases.  My favorite was this puzzle, which I put together when we got home.

Look how tiny the pieces are!

I’m in the process of matting it.  I think I’ll mount it to a frame and place it alongside a picture of us as a way to remember that fun adventure.

We headed back “home” after our shopping excursion.

Gus was happy to see us.  I puppy sat while the kids and the Mr. headed to their regular gym to work out.

We took it easy until dinner time, when we headed out to Blaze Pizza, which was having its grand opening down the street from the kids’ apartment.  They were offering each patron a free small pizza.  We couldn’t turn that down!

The line was out the door, but the restaurant had its act together; all employees were on deck and served with a smile.

There was a mishap with my pizza, though.  It made it all the way through the line, but someone dropped it while placing it into the oven.  They had to start from scratch, and it took forever.  Ugh.  I tried to be understanding.  The pizza was worth it!  I love that this place has vegan options!

That pretty much took care of our day, with the exception of the guys watching some baseball and me knitting on the couch until bedtime.  Driving around California is exhausting; it takes a longggggggg time to get places because of the traffic.  I’m not complaining, mind you, because all I had to do was ride.  We were pacing ourselves because we still had several days left in our trip.

California – Day 1

Day 1 technically began when we landed at 12:30am.

Oh, and hello snack machine.  I was s-t-a-r-v-i-n-g.  I discovered this treat while waiting for my luggage.

Enough about that though.

Props to Rooster and N for staying up late to make the hour-long drive to pick us up.  Even though I had not slept in almost twenty-four hours, I was pumped!  If you’re a military mama, you know the joy of seeing your loved one, stationed so far away.

We chatted the entire way back to their apartment, and I made some videos, one of which is below.

We greeted Gus, their dog, when we got in.  He was so excited to see us, despite the late hour.

After chatting a few minutes, we headed to bed.  By then, it was about 2:30am.

Now, I’d packed a lot of stuff, a third of which was workout attire.  I’d been doing Beach Body’s 80 Day Obsession, and I did not want to miss a routine.  I’d installed the Beach Body On Demand app and had downloaded the workouts I’d need while I was away.

Rooster’s apartment complex has a gym, and the kids had told me how to get in.  My plan was to wake up before everyone else, do my thing, and then make it back in time to get going with that day’s adventure.

The gym was amazing!

Look at that view!!

Look at all of that space and those mats!

I don’t use circuit machines, but for anyone who does . . .

I had packed my sliders and resistance loops along with my workout sheets, so I was set.

I loved the free weights.  They were easy to hold on to (not all weights are, y’all).

I had such a great workout!  Look at the picture below and how I’m bending that right leg.  This program has helped me so much with my strength and flexibility!

I got on the treadmill when I finished my workout and put in a couple of miles because I knew that we would be in the car, and my legs were used to moving!

When I got back to the apartment, everyone was awake and waiting for me!  I’d misjudged my time, so I had to hurry and get ready.

Then, we were off for our first adventure.

Now, driving in the wee hours of the morning, it had been dark, so we had not gotten a true look at the land.  Mid-morning, things looked a lot different!

There were BIG hills, and everything was brown.  Rooster explained that things turn green in the winter, when they get the bulk of their rain.  It was not what I expected, that’s for sure.

So, where were we going?

Well, the part of California where the kids live is close to Napa and Sonoma – land of the wine making.  Visiting a vineyard was high on my list.  Rooster’s wife, N, is such an awesome young lady.  She had researched wineries and had talked to friends.  She found the perfect place for us, which I’ll show you in a moment.

Meanwhile, we were driving.  The closer to Napa we got, the more the landscape changed. We passed vineyard after vineyard.  It was amazing!  We also passed a wine train.  I kid you not.  We had looked at those tours, but they were expensive.  Maybe next time.  😀

With all of the chatter in the car, it didn’t seem like it took any time until we arrived at our destination . . .

V. Sattui Winery was beautiful from the road, and even more lovely when we got out of the car.

We walked under this lovely arbor to get to the entrance . . .

We were greeted warmly by employees who explained how to go about with the wine tasting.  First, though, we wanted to do a bit of exploring.  We saw this building (I’m not sure what it’s used for) . . .

There was an old wine cellar that we didn’t go into.

The main attraction was the deli and shop.  That’s where the action was happening.

The cheese department was incredible and made me wish that I wasn’t lactose intolerant.

Rooster and N got some of it before we left.

There was a variety of balsamic vinegars to taste including this passion fruit one, which I am probably going to have to order – it was divine.

N had checked on the food available in the deli to make sure that I would have something to eat (told you that she’s fabulous).  The winery had picnic tables set up outside for people to eat at, and our plan had been to buy lunch and eat there.

Here’s a sample of the menu . . .

Here’s what I wound up getting . . .

Both were delicious; I had some of the anti-pasta leftover, which I ate the next day.  The Kale Salad was good, but I’ve learned that kale and I do not get along, no matter how it’s doctored up.  Just sayin’!

The day could not have been more perfect for visiting wineries.  Look at that sunny sky!  It could have been raining, for all I cared, because I was with my kids.  Nothing could have removed that smile from my face.  ❤

After we packed up our leftovers, we went back into the winery for more fun – shopping and wine tasting!

The way it worked was that for $20, each person could taste up to five different wines.

Rooster’s wife had been advised, by a friend, to find a younger person to help us with this.  Enter Ed, our fabulous guide to all things wine.

We really had no idea where to start, so he asked if we liked sweet or dry.  We preferred sweet, so he started us off with the Off-Dry Riesling, which he said was actually closer to sweet than dry.

I am a HUGE fan of Riesling, so this was exactly what I wanted to hear.  This one was really good.  I do not care for dry wine.  This was perfect – not too sweet and definitely not dry.  Even Rooster enjoyed it, which was interesting because I’d never seen him drink wine before.  Ahhhh . . . the joys of having adult children – responsible adult children, I might add.

The next wine we tried was Gamay Rouge.

It was a little sweeter than the first wine; you could taste the strawberries, cherries, and cranberries used to make it.

Now, the Mr. is not a wine guy.  The SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) he’s on to manage his Crohn’s restricts the types of alcohol he can have.

Ed, being the awesome guide that he was, noticed that the Mr. wasn’t participating and asked if he liked bourbon.  He said that he did, so Ed pulled this out.

That is actually a dessert wine – blended with brandy.  The Mr. really, really liked it.  You should have seen his eyes light up.  I didn’t try it, well just because (although the Mr. said I should because it’s really sweet).

Ed pulled out another bottle of something for the Mr. to try (I can’t remember what it was), but he liked the Madeira better.

Next up for those of us tasting wine was Bacci Rosato.

This is a rose wine with a host of fruits involved in the making.  It was okay – not bad but not my favorite.

The next wine we tried was a Moscato (didn’t take a picture).  It was sweet and very tasty.

Another wine we tried was Muscat (again, no picture).  I think this one was a sparkling wine, so it had some fizz.  Now it was pretty darned good – tasted like Sprite.

The last thing Ed presented us with was a combination of the Moscato and the Gamay Rouge . . .

Y’all, this was dessert in a glass!  It was so delightful and refreshing!

The only left to do when we finished was to decide what to buy.  We were so fortunate because Ed wound up not charging us for the tasting.  We knew that Rooster was going to be free because the winery offers free tastings to those on active duty with the military.  Well, Ed blessed us by comping the entire experience – for all of us!  That left us more money to buy wine!

I knew that I couldn’t get anything home without incurring some breakage, so the only option left was to purchase some for shipping.  The winery required either six or twelve bottle purchases.

Darn.

I filled out the order form, all the while chalking the purchase up to souvenirs.  Ha!

I also bought N a one of the bottles that she’d enjoyed.

We just received our wine order a couple of days ago – on the Mr.’s birthday – perfect timing since the Madeira was his birthday gift from me (it was pricey, let me tell you).

That’s going to last awhile because I rarely drink wine at home these days – part of my attempt to eat and drink healthier.

After the wine tasting, we loaded up in the car and headed in the direction of home.  We did make a couple of stops first.

We had seen this sign going in, and people had stopped to take pictures, so we made sure to stop and grab our own.

I took one of the four of us, which I won’t post, and then Rooster took a photo of the Mr. and me.

Of course I grabbed a selfie, not noticing, until later, the people behind me (people can be so oblivious sometimes – talking about them, not me).

I’m not sure why, but these railroad tracks caught my attention . . .

Maybe it was the connection between trains and the West.

We made one other stop in downtown Napa.  I’d scouted out yarn stores, and this one was not too far off the beaten path.

Yarns on First is the name of the shop.  It’s not large, but it has a good array of yarns.

I wanted to hurry since this stop was obviously all about me, so I immediately asked the lady inside if she could point me to yarn that had been produced locally.

First up was the Twirl, which I believe is made, from start to finish, by someone local (she even raises the sheep).  I found a shawlette pattern, Oh Helen, on Ravelry that I’m going to use this for.

I also bought this . . .

This yarn will be made into a pair of socks.  Of course.

We walked around a bit in downtown Napa.

Isn’t this mural pretty?

Then, we headed back to the apartment.

To avoid traffic, N navigated Rooster a scenic route home.

There were lots and lots of sharp curves, which Rooster drove around carefully and skillfully.

In fact, I rode in the backseat of the car the entire time we were in California.  I didn’t get carsick one time – a first for me and a tribute to the kids’ excellent driving.

Meanwhile, Chicky sent me this picture of the dogs . . . getting their evening snack.

Yes, they were totally spoiled while we were gone.

Dinner that evening was at a restaurant called BJ’s.  What a fun place; it had a large menu with several dishes that I could eat with my vegan diet.

Gus, Rooster and N’s fur baby, was extremely happy when we got back and settled in for the night.

Y’all, I slept so good that night.  If you’ll remember, we’d gotten in at 12:30, gone to bed at 2:30, and then I’d gotten up around 6.  It had been a wonderfully busy day – the start to a great vacation.

Two Weeks Ago

Two weeks ago, a little something-something began.

But first, my morning walk.

The sunrises I see each time I head out make getting up early . . . during summer break . . . so worth it.

I took a different route because I wanted to add more mileage.  The second half mile was long and boring, although going back home, it was all downhill and not nearly as bad.

I was pleased with the distance I covered . . . the longest during my continued ankle recovery.

It was important that I stick to my routine because it wouldn’t be long until I’d be changing that up.

I’d packed the day before . . . a trip looming on the horizon.

Isn’t it funny how fur babies know when you’re getting ready to leave?  The guilt they impart with their cute faces is always so hard to look at!

Chicky had been spending the summer around these here parts . . . visiting a friend . . . spending time with her grandparents.  She drove over so she could pet / house sit, and she wound up giving us a ride to the airport.

Because we live in Podunk, USA, getting checked in was a breeze.  The only thing left to do was wait.

And take silly selfies to send to Super Sis . . .

And not so-silly selfies with the Mr. to send to the children . . .

We should have been buying food because, as we’d later learn, we would, essentially, get no dinner since our flight was so late.

It wasn’t long before we got boarded and waited to take off.  It was just enough time for another selfie because y’all, I am all about documenting every second of every adventure.

To distract me, I got out my knitting.  I had started a new project a few days before, much to my happiness.  I hadn’t knit much in months!

Of course, our first stop was Atlanta because every flight goes through this metropolis.  I am usually a nervous flyer, but this time, I had a lot more peace, for some reason.  I also had a window seat, and our placement on the plane was perfect for looking at the terrain we were passing over.

We got a little nervous because as we neared Atlanta, the pilot notified us that he would be circling around a few extra times because the stormy weather had delayed other flights from landing.

We had a SMALL time-frame for our connecting flight and watched the minutes tick down.  We finally got on the ground and hopped out of our seats in the hopes that we would deplane quickly.  We apologized to those around us as we explained that we were in a hurry.

The Atlanta airport is HUGE, so we knew that we would have to hustle.  Fortunately, I’d installed the Trippie app (thanks for that tip, Megan).  What a great app too!  It showed our location in the airport and exactly where we needed to go to get on our next flight.

The only caveat was that the Mr. and I had to pee.  Really, really bad.  We were super worried about the time it would take on this pit stop, but when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.

Fortunately, we were able to hop on the train, which ran every minute and a half and was similar to riding the monorail at Disney.  It was super fast, but we hustled off, past the delightful food courts and restaurants, and to our flight’s waiting area with about fifteen minutes to spare.

We were able to line up first for our assigned boarding section, but then we learned that the flight attendants who would be on our plane had also been delayed by their incoming flight, so we waited.

I sure wish we’d known how long we would have to wait because we could have grabbed food.  By then, it was almost 9pm, and we were STARVING.  We were afraid to leave our station, though, so we stayed put, and it wasn’t long before we were able to board.

During this trip, we were flying with Delta.  I had downloaded the GogoEntertainment app to access in-flight videos, but it turned out that I didn’t need it because each seat had its own screen.

I was also super pleased to discover that I could charge my phone through the screen (something I figured out when I saw someone else do it).  Yay!

Y’all, there were so many options on that screen!  There were television shows, live TV, and recent movies!!!!  I was psyched!

Hello Liam.  You always make my heart go pitter-patter, even during a thriller like The Commuter.

Now, I had made a bit of a bonehead move and left my earbuds in my carry on bag, which I finally got the Mr. to get down from the overhead bin for me.  Unfortunately, the new earbuds for the new iPhone don’t have the correct audio end to plug into devices, so I was screwed.  Well, until the flight attendants passed out free ear buds.  Yay!  Except that mine didn’t work very well.  I guess I could have asked for a different pair.  Hindsight, y’all.  Still, I made do the best I could.

Because it was late, I didn’t want to turn on my light to knit.  I just didn’t want to bother anyone.  During this leg of the journey, there were three seats on our side, and a nice man was sitting beside me (beside the window).  He never said a word to me, but I didn’t want to disturb him.

After my movie, I played a word game.  I finally won a game . . . minutes before we landed.

The view as we neared the airport was breathtaking.

So, are you wondering where we wound up?

Here’s a clue . . .

That was another neat thing we had access to on the screens in front of us – flight information.  I loved playing with the map . . . zooming in . . .

To see that we were within spitting distance of our Rooster and his sweet wife.

Yay!

When Rooster was here in March, we had compared our calendars and booked our tickets.  I’d been anticipating our visit for three months!!!

I think that I’ll end the post here.  My plan (fingers crossed) is to blog about each day we spent in California, one post each.

Mini-Vacation Time!

A couple of months ago, when we began getting to know Rooster’s girlfriend, who, by the way, is a pure delight, I learned that she and I have a few things in common.

Namely, we both love Harry Potter.

She’s from Alabama, so she hadn’t done all things Florida, including Universal Studios…aka Harry Potter World.

The Mr. decided that this was a situation that needed to be remedied, so he did his homework and secured park tickets and a lovely hotel suite.  The plan was for Chicky, who lives about thirty minutes outside Orlando, to join us.

We left last Friday.  The week had been hectic for me with first semester exams, grades to input, and new lesson plans to tweak, but I got everything done and packed Thursday night.

Yes, I am 45 years old and own my own interactive wand.  You know you’re jealous.

Friday morning, I got up early and did my TurboFire workout.  I didn’t want to get too far behind my schedule, and I figured that because I’d be stuck in the car for a number of hours, moving my body first thing in the morning would be good for me.

The drive down was easy; I napped a little bit.  Before I knew it, we were there.

Not wanting to waste time, we hurried on to the park shortly after checking into our hotel.

The Mr. had a grand plan that first evening, and we struggled to keep up as he made a beeline to the first ride he wanted to get on…the Jurassic Park water ride.

It was dark by the time we got on; the lighting was so pretty!

We were the only ones on it, so we sat in one of the back rows.  Our logic was that we wouldn’t get as wet if we weren’t sitting up front.

Let’s just say that we were wrong.  Very wrong.

The Mr. got the worst of it; his entire sweater was soaked when he got off.

I was a little luckier, but the top part of my shirt got pretty wet, as did my face and hair.  It was as if someone had thrown a bucket of water directly at our heads.

What fun though!

After we got done with the first ride, we headed over to Hogsmeade.

I wish you could have seen Rooster’s girlfriend’s face.

Her jaw dropped open when she saw the streets lit with lanterns and the snowy roofs of the various establishments.  I think I had as much fun watching her experience everything as I did the first time I visited Universal.

We did a few more things…rode the train over to Hogwarts and looked around before walking through the rest of the park.

Then, we grabbed dinner and headed back to the hotel for the night.

I used the down-time to register for the Molly Weasley Ugly Jumper Run, which the Hogwarts Running Club is hosting.  Isn’t the medal fabulous?  I paid my entry fee AND ordered a t-shirt.

Ahem.

The next morning, Chicky met us at the hotel, and we headed out.

The day was GORGEOUS and actually warm for mid-January.

I took this picture of Rooster and his girl…

Yes, they are very cute, are they not?  🙂

Boy, was I glad to see Chicky!  Even though we had recently gotten together during Christmas, any time spent away from her makes my heart hurt.  Reunions are sweet.

We did all things Harry Potter.  The kids got Butter Beer, which I can’t have because of the dairy.  I got the fizzy orange drink with cinnamon and brown sugar rimmed cup.  Delicious!

We did other stuff besides Harry Potter.  Rooster, Chicky, and I rode the Rock It roller coaster.  A random kid sat beside Chicky, and the video of his facial reactions was absolutely hysterical.

We also rode the Dueling Dragons roller coaster.  This is such a fun ride!

Shockingly, the Hulk had been dismantled for maintenance.  Its absence felt strange.

That night, we ate dinner at the Cowfish, a favorite of ours when we travel to Universal.  The food is divine; the portions quite large, as evidenced by Rooster’s burger, a peanut butter/banana concoction that he says tastes great (although he’s not a fan of bananas).

Chicky ordered a couple of things and took enough food home to treat her roommate.

It was a wonderful evening.  Saying goodbye to my girl was hard, and I actually shed a few tears when she drove away.  For some reason, this time got me…probably because we’d had such a great day.

We were whooped, and everyone hit the hay a little earlier than the night before.

The next morning was cold and misty.

See the sky behind me?  It was the perfect backdrop for Hogsmeade, but word, it kept the temperature chilly!  In fact, I’d left my jacket at the hotel thinking I’d be too warm with my thick sweater.  Wrong-O!

N, Rooster’s girlfriend, had worn a short-sleeve shirt, and she was also cold.  Our first order of business was to find something warmer to put on.

I scored with a zip-up hoodie.

N got a thin, long-sleeve shirt.

Oh, and do you see my wand?  I finally got up the nerve to practice my spells and jumped up in jubilation when my first one worked!  Rooster was not amused.  I was more excited than the little kids around me.

Ahem.

Fortunately, as the day progressed, the sun pushed out the clouds, and the temperature climbed a little.  The only thing that kept things cooler was the wind.

We ate lunch at a newly-opened restaurant, the Grill & Brew, and watched Cam Newton’s team beat Seattle.

N and I left during halftime to do more Harry Potter exploring.  This time together gave us a chance to chat.  She’s a very calm and quiet young lady…very mature…with a gentle spirit.  I adore her!

We had a lot of fun shopping, and we talked each other into getting rather expensive *ahem* Molly Weasley sweaters.

We took them to the bridge and photographed each other in front of the castle.

I will tell you that when I took N’s picture, someone rudely said, while walking by, “Oh look.  Let’s take a picture of a sweater.”

I’m afraid I showed my butt and responded, quite loudly, “That’s a very special sweater!”

The nerve of that other woman.

Sheesh.

They should have taken her ticket away…such lack of respect for a fine piece of fiber art.

Here I am sporting it at school today…

But wait…I’m getting ahead of myself.

The sweater is 100% wool and was made in Scotland.  It was also quite pricey.  Fortunately, the Mr. didn’t pitch a big fit when he saw how much I’d paid for it…two days later.  *Ahem*

We met up with the guys after their game ended…coincidentally as we were finishing our shopping…and headed back into the park to take one more stroll through the super hero island.

Then, we went back to the hotel to relax, eat a late dinner, and prepare for our departure the next day.

The next morning, I got up extra early and put in a little over four miles on the treadmill before the rest of my crew got up.

The ride home was uneventful; I slept much of the way.

I was more than ready to be home.  The dogs were extremely happy to see us, as evidenced by the picture below.  Gambit took advantage of the ten-minute stretch video I did after my forty-minute TurboFire workout (because I’m overachieving like that).  I was the perfect height for him to give me kisses.

My evening ended with a glass of wine and Downton Abbey, which I’d recorded the night before.  Whoever invented DVRs should win some sort of prize.

Props to the Mr. who generously treated us to this wonderful mini-vacation!

Weekend of Fun

A week and a half ago, I did something I rarely do…

I took two days off of work – a Friday and a Monday.

Why?

Well, to play, of course!

The Mr.’s work schedule was chaotic this summer; coordinating a weekend trip around his and Rooster’s schedules proved un-doable.

Thus it was that we found ourselves at Universal Studios the second week of school.  We stayed at the Cabana Beach Resort, where the Mr. had reserved a family suite…tres beautiful.  ❤

Chicky doesn’t live too far from Orlando, so she drove over and met us there Saturday morning…just in time to go to the parks!  We had tickets for both – Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios.

Oh goodness, but just seeing Chicky made me happy.  She was last in town in June for a friend’s wedding.  Our visit was somewhat short; she’s a homebody…as in her own home…because she’s all grown up now.  😉

Watching my babies (cause they’ll always be my babies) walking together, conversing about who knows what, made my heart sing with joy.

The first day started out beautiful. We quickly got on The Hulk.  I wasn’t scared until we were seated.  I remembered doing well during Spring Break when the Mr. and I rode it, but I also remember feeling just a little bit queasy when it was over because of the final twist.

This time around, I was better prepared for the flips and turns and got off the ride smiling.

Our day turned, eventually, as the weather changed from being sunny to a dull overcast…typical Florida summer weather.  The rain drove us back to the hotel after dinner at the Cowfish (a great restaurant at CityWalk, if you’re ever at Universal).

That night, we were checking out the weather for the next day, and it was supposed to rain…like an 80% chance…EVERY.  SINGLE.  HOUR.

Well, I prayed mightily before I went to sleep, claiming God’s promise that we could move mountains if we had faith.  I asked that God would allow our little part of Orlando to be rain-free until we finished all of the rides we wanted to go on.  It’s so rare that all four of us can get together, that I wanted to eke out as much fun from the day as possible.

God was so faithful and answered my prayers!  The day started off a bit hazy, but the sky quickly cleared up.

We got into Harry Potter World early because we were staying at one of the park’s hotels.  Boy, did we take advantage of this extra time!  We quickly jumped on the Dueling Dragons ride.  We’d ridden it the day before, but because there are two different tracks, we got on the second one.  The Mr. wasn’t super thrilled; roller coasters are getting harder for him to ride.

😀

What fun!

After that ride, we walked quickly back to the Rock It roller coaster, which we’d tried to ride the day before but couldn’t because it had gotten shut down with the inclement weather.

The Mr., who was going to pass on it the day before, got shamed into riding with us.  It was the main ride that Rooster wanted to go on.  As we waited in line, we discovered that rather than having an over-the-shoulder harness, the ride had a thick waist shield.

I’ll admit that I got a little freaked out.  This ride requires you to go straight up really high, so you’re looking up at the sky before you get to the top of a dropoff.  SCARY.  It flips and twists too!  We were so scared we’d fall out.

I sat beside Rooster, and Chicky and the Mr. sat behind us.

I screamed the first two drops but then began laughing hysterically when I thought I heard the Mr. screaming.  It was, in fact, the man in front of us.

Still, I found the ride exhilarating.

After we got off, we discovered that the ride had cameras in front of every seat, so we could watch ourselves as we were riding.

Oh.

My.

Gosh.

I wish I had bought the video of the Mr. and Chicky; the contrast in their faces was PRICELESS.  Chicky smiled and laughed the entire time.  The Mr.’s face was screwed up like he was enduring torture.  Hysterical stuff.

This was me after I finished…the ride behind me (see the arrows…you go up the left side of them…on your back)…

We managed to everything we wanted to do…the Minions ride…so much fun!!  The Mr. and I had waited for an hour and a half before it got shut down during our previous visit, so we were especially happy to finally get to ride it.

We visited Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley and indulged in beverages…

That was a creamy orange drink with cinnamon and brown sugar around the rim.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  I was licking my fingers for hours afterward.

One of the main things I wanted to do was go on the water rides.  We’d purchased ponchos because I had forgotten to bring mine after loaning them to my friend, Barb, a few months ago.  Thank goodness we had them because the water rides SOAK you through and through!  What fun though!  I highly recommend them if you ever visit Universal.

This was me after the Barges ride.

I didn’t really buy much in the way of souvenirs.  I did get this comic shirt though…so cute and so much fun to wear!

I liked it so much that I wore it to dinner that night.  I did a sneak-selfie as we walked to the Hard Rock Cafe at CityWalk…

Oh, and the rain that I asked God to keep at bay?  He answered!!!  It didn’t start raining until after we’d gotten off of the last ride we’d planned for the day.  Then, the bottom fell out of the sky…as we began making our way to the bus and, ultimately, our hotel.

Don’t ever NOT ask for something.  God does hear!

Chicky didn’t join us for dinner.  She had gone back home so she could teach the next day.  Her school was only starting its second week, so she didn’t want to take off time.

The food at the Hard Rock was divine…

I don’t remember what the guys ate; I had the veggie sandwich.  Rooster enjoyed the cheesecake while the Mr. and I inhaled its delicious aroma from afar.

Sigh.

What a fantastic weekend we had.  We created so many fun memories…even more precious now that my chicklets are grown and spending less and less time with us.

When Last I Posted…

When last I posted, I was bragging on the Mr.’s many virtues…how he’d gone above and beyond the call of married duty by helping me straighten my hair after I’d burned my thumb.

That was Valentine’s Day when the post made it to my blog.

Lots of stuff has transpired since the beginning of that weekend.

Not big stuff…just the everyday stuff that happens in a person’s life.

The Mr. and I spent a lovely Valentine’s weekend in a beach town an hour away from home.

He happily obliged my one request…to go yarn shopping at the only yarn shop near me…

No, that wasn’t the Mr. posing, but by the time I’d purchased the yarn in the photo below, he could have resembled the guy above.  heehee

We ate a wonderful lunch afterward at a pizza place.  Wine is good…especially at lunch…on a Saturday…when the weather is gorgeous and you’re with your honey…

Then, it was time to go shopping.

Normally, I do not enjoy shopping.

That weekend was different.  We started out at the Under Armour outlet store.

Oh.

My.

Gosh.

I’ve been walking with a friend after school two or three days a week, so the Mr. got me a few outfits.

Next, we visited the Michael Kors store.

Oh heavens.  This company knows how to make shopping fun!  The store was brightly lit, and every single one of the associates was young, well-dressed, and upbeat.  Every time I walked out of my dressing room with an outfit on, someone had something positive to say.  The comments were sincere, the smiles big.

I purchased a number of items and then headed back to the dressing room after the Mr. spied a dress that an associate was wearing.  We found it on the clearance rack, and I had to try it on…

It came home with me too.

My bag was quite full…

After visiting the BCBG store (not nearly as upbeat or bright and airy, by the way), I had my arms full of new goodies…

Later, after a brief rest, we headed to dinner…

Our plans to eat at P.F. Changs were nearly derailed when we discovered that one should make reservations if one wants to eat at a decent hour on Valentine’s Day.

We kind of snuck our way to a table on the patio and avoided a two-hour wait.

Ahem.

The food was absolutely divine…

All-in-all, it was a wonderful evening.

The next morning, we slept in a bit then headed out for a bit more shopping.  The traffic was horrid.

You can see how lovely the weather was though.  Winter teased us a bit.

I was so glad that I had that Monday off.  I needed the extra day to put away all of my goodies and recover from a delightful weekend with the hubby.

Vacation Shenanigans – Part 3

Our second official day on the ship found us at Grand Turk.

It’s a small island with a beautiful view.

If you ever visit Grand Turk, do not waste money on a cab tour.  It’s not worth it because there’s not much to see.  Just enjoy the beach!

Immediately upon settling in, Super Sis and I were approached by a lady offering to put braids or wraps in our hair.

We had decided that we wanted to do this, but we didn’t want to spend much money.  Everything on the islands is negotiable…this we knew from our past traveling experiences, so we began to haggle.

The Mr. had agreed to spend $20 on our wraps.  I was going to pay for hers, and she would pay me back later.

We finally got the gal down from her original price, and another girl began making the wrap…

I had chosen blues and greens because they are my favorite colors…

Super Sis got her hair done after mine was finished, and we then sat, contented, while we chatted and the boys threw a Nerf football.

The weather was absolutely divine and much appreciated after some cold temps we’d back home!  The water at Grand Turk was a gorgeous shade of blue.

After a teensy bit of shopping, I needed a bottle of water, so I headed for the bar in the pool area of the resort that is on the island.  What a lovely setting, eh?

Can you say Cabana Boy?  🙂

We eventually headed back to the ship where we enjoyed a round of trivia…our daily dose of fun.

A word about trivia.

We take it very seriously.  It’s boys vs girls.

The boys think they are smarter than we are…not that previous scores would indicate this.

:::rolling my eyes:::

Take a moment to admire my cleverly-added hats to hide the boys’ faces.  Go me.  🙂

Here’s our scorecard…please take notice of our name…because we are still have some ripening to do…

Take a look at how the boys…aka “The Lighbulbs” – gag – did…

They claimed it wasn’t a real victory for us because we gained a new partner…Eddie…a kind older gentleman who didn’t belong to a group.  We, being the friendly Southern women that we are, welcomed him with open arms.  He was our secret weapon and brought a smile to our faces each day he met with us.

After trivia, it was time to get ready for dinner.  The ship had pulled away from Grand Turk, taking to the high seas on its way to Puerto Rico…

I couldn’t help but take some time to enjoy the sunset.  If you’ve never cruised, you must.  The sight of the sun setting over the ocean is awe-inspiring and such a reminder of God’s beauty…

The day of fun wasn’t over though.  You see, cruise lines have tons and tons of activities planned.  Pick and choose according to your preference!

After dinner, we headed to the auditorium/theater for a special show…

I don’t even know what to say about this group.  It was on America’s Got Talent, and I remember watching the guys.  Seeing them in person was something else altogether.

The show was interactive with audience members picking out various pots and pans, along with ear plugs, so we could drum out a beat along with the talented artists.

Each member of the group brought his own unique flair to the performance…

What I loved about this act was the way the routines were changed up.  There was body percussion…

There were percussion duets…

There was some sort of chain saw fireworks thing going (freaked me out a bit…didn’t want anything to catch fire)…

One of funniest acts was the dueling drummers.  Oh word, but these guys were hysterical!!!!

During one part of the set, one of the percussionists got the older lady you see pictured in the bottom left to throw in a drum stick.  The poor woman’s aim was horrid, so he tried to walk her through how to properly throw a drumstick.  Her timing was off…she didn’t speak much English, I think…which made for a lot of laughter as the musician ad-libbed.

The absolute best part of the show happened when the group asked for volunteers, previously selected, to come to the stage.

The Mr. had been selected.

The men had to put on masks, and the audience was shown the following message on the mounted monitors…

We were in for a treat.

It was a training zoo.

Fortunately, the Mr. wasn’t the one who couldn’t see.  The poor guy in the middle (the one with both hands down) was the unlucky fellow.

If you want a good laugh for the day, check out this video…

The Mr. is wearing the purple shirt and blue jeans.

Please note that he doesn’t usually dance in public…nor does he slow dance with other men.

Ahem.

The booty song…he’s practiced those moves at home for the family a few times…as a joke.

He got some of the loudest applause.

He did us proud.

After the guys did their thing, it was time for a cookie break…

Yes, the guys doled out cookies.  So generous of them…especially after a very filling dinner, which nearly every audience member had just emerged from…

Then, it was time for a PSA about bullying.  The group has created an anti-bullying campaign with proceeds from the sales of their merchandise on the ship going toward their nonprofit organization, Legacy X.

After one final hodgepodge of classic rock and roll songs, the group finished its performance.  Group members met members of the audience outside.  They were very friendly and more than willing to pose for pictures.  I was too shy to ask (if they had been my favorite YA authors, I would have totally gone fangirl on them).

After the show, we hit the karaoke scene and listened to my talented nephew, Music Man, belt out a couple of tunes.  This guy is amazing and had the audience cheering loudly.

Later, he and Chicky saved me from embarrassing myself when the host of the evening tagged my girl and me to do a duet.  I know I cannot carry a tune, so it would have been disastrous.  Music Man filled in for me, and he and Chicky sang “You’re the One that I Want,” from Grease.  It was hysterical!  Music Man tried, accidentally, to sing Chicky’s part, to which she waved him off.  They giggled through the entire thing but still had the crowd into it.  They were acknowledged throughout the rest of the cruise by people who had seen them.  Very funny.

I can’t remember if we hit the late night buffet after that.  All I know is that we were pretty tired.  The sun, the music fun, the dancing…they were a lot to take in for just one day, and we knew Puerto Rico was just over the horizon…

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