Weekend Happenings

October 6th, 2015 No comments

I saw two new animals I’ve never seen in the wild before this weekend:

A skunk on our street when we were coming home after spending the evening at my parents’ house on Saturday.
A Blue Jay being quite vocal at the arboretum on Sunday morning.

I know both of these animals are native to the area but I have never seen either. I certainly can smell the skunks most nights, though! I swear our town is overflowing with them.

The weekend as a whole looked like this:

Friday night we were invited to play BINGO with a friend at the VFW. Didn’t win squat (but at the least the pizza was good).

Saturday morning we stopped at the newly opened Chik-fil-a for breakfast, then did some grocery shopping at Meijer.

Saturday evening we headed to my parents house to celebrate my mom’s birthday. We brought over fried chicken, a rotisserie chicken, chicken tenders (specifically for Brother # 1), broccoli, and mashed potatoes. After dinner we played What’s Yours Like and Pictionary Jr. with my mom and both brothers. My mom tried to give me $10 for some of the food; we ended up playing a game of giving back the money by “hiding” it. I won because I slipped it under the rug by the stairs when I was putting my boots on to leave. Right in front of everyone, no less! No one found it (even though my mom admitted she went around the house after I left looking for it because she knew I had left it there) until the next day when I told them where to look. I don’t want their money. I’m not rich by any means but I don’t feel right taking money from them either.

Sunday morning Joe went with a friend of ours to a gun show and then when he got home we headed over to the arboretum to check out the scarecrows (photos will be posted later this week). On the way home we picked up some Mexican food which we ate while watching the Bears game (they finally won this year).

Our DVR decided to act like a jerk and not show the Bears game on it until after the game was over. That sucked because we got home a half hour into the game and had planned to catch up via the recording. It usually shows everything even while it’s recording so I don’t know why it didn’t this time. On top of that, last night a bunch of really old recordings, some dating back to January of this year, reappeared on the DVR. I had to go through it and delete all the stuff we’ve already watched. Way to go, cable company! It’s not like I don’t spend a fortune on your service or anything.

Monday was cleaning day since I put it off all weekend.

By the way, I am already hating the cold. Even though it was 70 degrees when I left work today it was freezing in the office and I had to pull out my heated floor mat. I’m going to have to dress in multiple layers from now until April and I’m not happy about it.

Categories: Excursions, Family, Fun & Games Tags:

Florida Trip – Day Six & Wrap Up – Saturday (9/26)

October 6th, 2015 No comments

We didn’t do anything our last day except get ready to leave since our flight home was at 11:40 am. I could barely eat a single donut since I was nervous about the flight. On Thursday I paid extra for Early Bird Check-In in hopes we’d get on the plane sooner so I could get a seat closer to the wing. It worked out which helped with the turbulence. I also discovered the free wifi which included live TV and even better, real time stats of our flight. So every time the plane felt weird to me, I’d just check the page and see that the speed and/or altitude had changed which made me feel better. Also, our plane was slightly larger than the first one, plus there weren’t as many sharp turns until we were landing.

Even with all that, I have to say, I really do hate flying. It just makes me so anxious. I am worried about crashing even though I know statistically speaking that’s extremely unlikely. I just hate the lack of control. Plus I don’t trust that people know what they are doing. I’ve witnessed too many people throughout the years not caring about doing their job properly, and I find it hard to believe there aren’t at least a few pilots who fall into that category. After all, just over 50% of plane crashes have been attributed to pilot error.

Anyway, here’s some vacation stats:

Pounds gained: 0
Number of park days used: 3 (thanks to the Park Hopper option)
Amount budgeted for trip: $2313.66
Amount actually spent: $1968.52
Portion spent on accommodations: $732.38
Portion spent on food: $249.63
Portion spent on souvenirs: $38.68
Photos taken: 500
Photos worth keeping: Approximately 150
Videos taken: Approximately 37

Our food costs were kept down due to two things:

1) We bought bottled water and donuts when we arrived so we didn’t eat out for breakfast every day and didn’t have to buy any drinks in the parks. That saved a lot of money since a bottle of water is $2.75 at the parks. I’m glad Disney isn’t so stingy that they prevent you from being outside food and drinks to the parks.

2) The humidity killed our appetites so we typically only ate two meals a day. Proof: We weren’t out in the heat on Thursday and we ate more that day than the others.

I would really like to return to Disney again to explore the other resorts more. I think instead of waiting another ten years we’ll go back in five (or perhaps sooner if E would like to go there after he turns 18). I’m torn on whether we should fly or drive, though. For my anxiety, driving is definitely the way to go, but I like how much faster it is to get there by flying. I definitely want to spend more than four whole days next time, though, so we can visit the parks without having to hop around as much. Although if we go sooner than five years from now I’m not sure I’d bother with Animal Kingdom at all. Ironic considering my love of animals, right? It’s just rather boring compared to the other parks. We were supposed to spend a whole half a day there but after a couple hours the one day I was done with that park. I don’t even like Hollywood Studios all that much but I’m sure by the time we return they will have added more Star Wars stuff so we’ll have to check that out. I wish we could have gone on the teacups again at Magic Kingdom but there just wasn’t enough time.

I really loved staying on property due to how well-maintained everything was even though our resort was classified as a value resort. I say this because to hear some of the people on the Disney Facebook page talk, staying at a value resort is just horrible. Maybe they are just spoiled idiots, though. I’ve never stayed in a cleaner hotel room before. We saw people repainting the buildings all the time, too. As a result, nothing looked worn out. All the little lizards and snails around the property were cute too. The snails in particular really came out after all the rain we got on Friday. We saw really tiny ones, many of which were crushed due to people not paying attention and stepping on them, and huge ones too.

Getting to everything within the world of Disney or nearby was so quick and easy. Initially I wasn’t sure whether it was worth getting a rental car for more than a day but it definitely came in handy every day we were there. Since we were staying on property the parking at the parks was complimentary and we never waited more than a couple of minutes for a tram to the entrance or back to our car. We only took the bus to the Magic Kingdom the first day because it bypasses the Transportation Center and drops you right off at the park gate.

I’m bummed our vacation went by so quickly but now I really do understand the magic of Disney and I can’t wait to go back!

Categories: Excursions Tags: ,

Florida Trip – Day Five – Friday (9/25)

October 5th, 2015 No comments


Last night we decided we should try to eat somewhere on property that was highly rated, so I booked a reservation for the Kona Cafe at Polynesian Village Resort for breakfast. We enjoyed their famous Tonga Toast before making our way over to Epcot.

Spaceship Earth

I didn’t think we’d be at the park long, but we spent nearly six hours there. I was so happy the Seas area was open since it was under refurbishment last time we visited ten years ago.

The Seas with Nemo & Friends

We went on the Nemo & Friends ride first which was cute, but kinda boring, although I did like how they incorporated the animated characters in with real live fish. I felt bad for the solitary dolphin swimming in a fairly small tank with not much in it, though. That can’t be good for the animal’s mental health. We also saw a manatee and some sea turtles.


We had fast-passes for Test Track so we went on that next. We immediately noticed it was very different from when we rode it in 2005. The newer version is faster which made it much more fun than before.

Our next stop was to see Captain EO starring Michael Jackson (and Angelica Huston, which I totally forgot about). It was popular when I was a kid but was removed in the late 90’s. It was then brought back after Michael Jackson passed away. It was definitely cheesy, but I’m glad I got to see it again. It would have been nicer if the people sitting behind us didn’t feel the need to discuss the showing in great length during the show, though. So rude! I almost turned around and said something. Seriously, not only is that rude, but you’re missing what’s being said when you’re talking so much. Ugh!

Our next stop, just because it was right there, was Journey Into Imagination With Figment which is cute.

I like the area around Captain EO and Figment because it’s where the jumping fountains are located. I could have sworn you used to be able to walk on the area where the water comes from, but pictures from this awesome website called Yesterland that shows comparisons of different Disney theme park areas over the years has proved my memory incorrect.

Jumping Fountains

After hanging around awhile to get a picture of the monorail, we made our way to Epcot’s World Showcase area.


It was the first day of the International Food & Wine Festival and it was crowded. We got a small lobster roll and beef slider at the Hops & Barley booth. The lobster roll was listed as a festival favorite but neither of us enjoyed it very much. The beef slider was very good, however.

Shortly after we ate it began to rain. We camped out in a gift shop while the worst of it passed over. Then we went on the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros in Mexico before making our way out of the park.

Once we made it back to the hotel we decided to hang out in the pool for a bit before it started thundering. We were stuck in our room for a bit waiting for the rain to pass and getting increasingly hungry since the small lobster roll and beef slider were all we had eaten that afternoon.

It finally seemed to be letting up so we made our way to Downtown Disney (recently renamed Disney Springs) in search of food. The area is under construction but we found a parking garage which was really cool because it has censors over each parking space. When you enter the garage it tells you how many open spots there are on each level, and there’s a spot counter for each row as well. The actual boardwalk area of Disney Springs is rather dark and narrow so it felt claustrophobic since it was so crowded. They really need to add some additional lighting.

We had a heck of a time picking a place to eat. I had a coupon for Earl of Sandwich but we weren’t sure we wanted to spend our last night of vacation eating sandwiches so we kept looking. I told Joe I could go for either a steak or a burger, so we started checking out the menus. The burger at The Rainforest Cafe seemed overpriced so we decided on Fulton’s Crab House even though their filet is $47! The problem was when we walked in the atmosphere was icky. I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but for those prices I was expecting it to look nicer inside. I told Joe what I was thinking and he said, “let’s keep looking then” and we left.

Our next attempt was at The Boathouse. We were being led to a table right by where an extremely loud live band was playing, and I asked the hostess if she could seat us away from them. She agreed, but instead of taking us to any of the tables deeper into the restaurant, she led us to a table that was just a little further from the band. WTF??? As we were sitting there trying to speak to one another by screaming, I told Joe I couldn’t take it and wanted to leave. Luckily we hadn’t placed our orders yet, and didn’t touch the bread plate, so he said, “lets go”. I was sure he was going to kill me at that point, but he didn’t care. I can’t stand really loud music when I’m trying to dine and he agreed it was annoying. I guess that’s what happens when you’re trying to find food at 9:30 pm on a Friday night. We passed through their little food truck area and there were only two trucks even though four are listed on their website. We joked that’s one more truck than at the food truck “festival” we attempted to attend last weekend when E was over. There was literally one truck, and it was an ice cream one! But I digress.

At this point we were both getting frustrated and starving. House of Blues was too loud too, so we decided to leave. I consulted Yelp and found a place called Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers in Orlando a short drive away where we finally enjoyed some burgers and a monster turtle sundae. By the time we got back to the hotel we were exhausted and got to bed around midnight.

» Epcot photos on Flickr

Categories: Excursions, Photos Tags: ,

Florida Trip – Day Four – Thursday (9/24)

October 5th, 2015 No comments

Kennedy Space Center & Cocoa Beach

We decided to take a break from Disney on this day even though the original plan was to visit Epcot.

We hit up the only non-Disney restaurant on Disney property, McDonald’s (I bet Disney gets a huge cut of those profits) for breakfast before heading toward the coast to visit Kennedy Space Center. It’s funny how just like on our last visit, we were flabbergasted by the short distance between the tolls on the toll road. It’s a total of $4.25 to get between Disney and the coast, by the way. That’s $8.50 round trip!

We thought the admission to KSC was high ten years ago at $38? It’s $50 now! On top of that we splurged and paid $25 more per person to go on the special explore tour to see the Vehicle Assembly Building and launch pads up close. We reasoned that we probably wouldn’t visit again for a long time, if at all. Even so, plopping down $150 stung a little.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

I must admit, it was pretty interesting, although I was more into seeing the dolphins swimming near the causeway when we stopped to see one of the shuttle launch observation points. Joe and I ignored everything our tour guide was saying as we watched the family of dolphins swimming in the distance. That is so us!

KSC Launch Viewing Area

We spent a good six hours at KSC and didn’t even see everything, but were burnt out on space stuff and hungry, so we left around 3 pm. One thing I did not like about the place is how the only way to see some of the exhibits was to endure films beforehand. Yes, they were interesting, and provided additional context to what you were viewing, but I wish they were optional.

Also, it would have been helpful if they were better about communicating where to line up for the special tour since there’s a regular bus tour without stops that leaves from the same area. Overall I’m glad we went to see it, but I can’t see us going back again for a very long time, if ever.

We went to the same restaurant we visited last time we were in the Cocoa Beach area – Florida’s Seafood Bar & Grill. I was really looking forward to the rock shrimp and was so disappointed when we arrived to learn that they were not available. Part of me wanted to just leave but I was starving so I looked for something interesting on the menu. We ordered the lobster bites which were incredible! I’m not sure which of the dipping sauce was better because they were both so yummy.

Lobster Bites

For our main entree we both got tacos. Joe got fish tacos and I got Dynamite Shrimp tacos. OH MY GOD, were they delicious! The sweet & salty combo was perfect.

Shrimp Tacos

Mmmmm…. I wish I could go back right now and get them again. The meal was fantastic and it was only $40 which was awesome.

After our early dinner (it was about 4 pm by that time) we went to Cocoa Beach Pier where we walked on the beach and in the surf.

Cocoa Beach Pier

There were some big waves and a lot of surfers out there taking advantage of it. One of the locals came up and was telling us the waves have been bigger than normal which is why it was so crowded. There were a lot of cute little seabirds hanging out and I got some video of them because I was fascinated by them.

We also saw a dead baby sea turtle wash up on shore which was sad. Other than that, it was a lot of fun. There’s something so relaxing about the ocean. I would love to drive to Florida one of these years and just bring our beach gear so we could make a whole day of it.

We spent at least an hour just hanging out before making the drive back to our resort. We decided to visit the huge pool on property closer to the main entrance (there are three total pools – one by us, the huge one called the Big Blue Pool, and a small one by the Cars section). We visited their Drop Off Bar and shared an alcoholic drink poolside, but didn’t end up going in the water. It was rather crowded, so we went back to our pool and sat along the side of the pool with our feet in the water.

I must say, the lifeguards at the pools are impressive – they don’t take their eyes off anything for a second. They have a whole procedure when one of the lifeguard’s shift is finished. Joe likened it to the changing of the guards. They also call into management whenever they have to jump into the pool even if the person is fine, like this one lifeguard did to check on a little girl who went under the water momentarily earlier in the week. By the time he got to her she was already out of the pool and by her family poolside. We missed what prompted him to jump in but the whole thing was very interesting.

» Kennedy Space Center photos on Flickr

Categories: Excursions, Photos Tags:

Florida Trip – Day Three – Wednesday (9/23)

October 4th, 2015 No comments

Animal Kingdom – Hollywood Studios – Magic Kingdom

We slept in a bit (til after 7 am) on Wednesday since we were up late the night before and were planning on using the first half of the day to lounge in the pool. We went to Sizzler in Kissimmee for their breakfast buffet after a friend recommended it. A British couple eating nearby gave us two paper fastpasses they hadn’t used since they were leaving that day. I’ve never seen the type of passes before but they were good for any ride at the Magic Kingdom which was perfect since we planned on going there in the evening and wanted to ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train but couldn’t secure a fastpass even though I checked almost two months ahead of time.

It was pretty cloudy out and looked like it was going to rain, so instead of going to the pool we decided to drive over to Animal Kingdom even though it was on our itinerary for Thursday morning.

Tree of Life

We reasoned we’d use the extra time to check out the animals and then go on the rides we were interested in the next day. By the time we got there it was sunny and humid which sucked. We walked around Africa and Asia to see some animals, but were quickly dripping with sweat. We went on Dinosaur because it’s in an air-conditioned building (and it was fun!), and then got Mickey Ear ice cream bars in an attempt to cool off. It didn’t work too well, so we went back to the hotel and swam in the pool for awhile.

That helped to refresh us, so we decided to go back to Hollywood Studios were I was able to secure last minute fastpasses to ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Star Tours, both of which we loved. I don’t remember the roller coaster being quite that intense before, but it was awesome nonetheless! According to Wikipedia riders experience 4.5 G (44 m/s2) as they enter the first inversion, more than an astronaut does on a space shuttle launch. Not sure how true that is but it is pretty damn intense!

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

As for Star Tours, it has definitely changed for the better with the 3D aspect thrown in.

Star Tours

From there were drove to the Magic Kingdom and planned to take the monorail from the Transportation Center but it wasn’t running so we had to take the Ferryboat instead which was fine since we’ve never done that before.

Cinderella's Castle

Much to our delight, the fastpasses the British couple had given us worked, and we were able to get on the the Seven Dwarfs ride with no wait. It was a lot of fun – I can see why the lines are so long for it! We also rode Dumbo the Flying Elephant and The Barnstormer, neither of which we’ve ridden in the past, and both of which we enjoyed.

We had skipped lunch, so we grabbed a jumbo turkey leg at the Cool Ship in Tomorrowland. We had to consult Google because we were convinced it wasn’t actually turkey since it tasted exactly like ham.

Apparently we sat around Tomorrowland a bit too long because by the time we made it to Main Street around 7:25 pm to secure a spot for the Main Street Electrical Parade, it was packed. We found a decent spot right behind two garbage cans to the left of Cinderella’s Castle where the parade turns to go into Liberty Square.

Before the parade started this Spanish woman tried to worm her way in front of me with her stupid iPad (I mean, really, who thinks they are going to get any decent pictures or videos on one of those things, particularly at night). She kept motioning to the spot like she expected me to move and let her in, and like an idiot I did. What’s wrong with me??? I was there first! It really pissed me off so I passive aggressively started bumping into her and she decided to leave right before I decided I was going to tell her to get out of my spot and go find her own. It’s not my fault she waited too long to find somewhere to view the parade. We didn’t cut in front of any of the people who were there first because that’s just rude. Unfortunately there are always people like that out in public and they ruin what would otherwise be an enjoyable event. In any case, the parade wasn’t all that and next time I’d take that opportunity to go on some rides instead.

We decided to leave the park after the parade but most people stayed put to wait for the fireworks. We laughed about the crowd with a fellow traveler later on the monorail back to the Transportation Center. He said he’s never seen so many people in one place before and we agreed. It was overwhelming and not so magical. At least now we know for next time to just skip it.

» Hollywood Studios photos on Flickr
» Magic Kingdom photos on Flickr

Categories: Excursions, Photos Tags: ,