Sunday, November 30, 2014

We Are Home!!

This is long and pictures are near the bottom if you wish to skip.

We had a fantastic time and despite the naysayers who said we were not going to have enough time to do everything in just the 2 days we were there, we did. We saw and rode everything we wanted to in 2 days.  The things we didn't see were basically things G had no reference point for like Toon Lagoon which were comic strips (Hagar the Horrible, Betty Boop, Woody Woodpecker and the like).  G doesn't read the comics because we don't receive a printed paper.  I Love Lucy memorial thing I might would have enjoyed looking through but G didn't know who it was.

She has never seen Beetlejuice so the activities there were not interesting to her.  Transformers ride was a no go because she hasn't ever seen the movies and was not interested.  We didn't do the water rides because I didn't bring clothing to change into again because of not bringing a backpack.  We did ride a Dr. Suess ride which was just in G's words, a baby ride over the Dr. Suess section.  So maybe we could have stayed a lot longer and seen everything but there was no point.

We headed out for our vacation on Tuesday, stopped by Elvis Presley's birthplace in Tupelo, picnicked in the car in the parking lot there. I packed supper for us from home so when we stopped in Albany, GA, we ate supper in the hotel room. I had a cooler that managed to keep everything cool until I could get more ice. We only had to eat lunch on the way into Florida and we stopped at a Subway then.

We arrived at the CoCo Key Resort in Orlando just after 3pm. Our room was ready so we checked in. We initially had a $22/night fee for the water park but due to the cooler temps that was reduced to $9/night and the water park was limited time from 11am-5pm and then Friday it was not open at all as far as I know because when we came back to the hotel before 5pm it was totally closed. I don't think it opened all day.  So the cooler temps was a financial blessing because I was on limited funds due to the car problems I had earlier this fall.

 Well, when we got to the room G had time to play in the water park but the room key didn't work. A very kind employee came to our rescue, showed us where G could change while I figured out the room key and ended up getting us a manager who realized our initial room was locked from the inside because her key wouldn't work either. She upgraded our room from a standard king with no microwave to a studio with a microwave, kitchen area with table/chairs, mud room, bathroom, king bed and living room area. I am telling you this was a God thing. He moved us to that room.

G and I, after getting her a hot shower from playing in the heated water park (the temp was still cool), headed to a Walgreens for supplies. We got breakfast foods for Friday and Saturday and supper for Thursday and Friday plus snacks to take to the park Thursday and Friday. We brought some of the food home and most of the snacks. That cooler even kept our milk we bought for breakfast cold to get home.

Back in June or July I booked this trip that gave us 1 hour before the park opened and I also booked us a breakfast for Thursday morning at the Three Broomsticks on the Adventure Island side that didn't allow for the early entry. So on Thursday we arrived at the park and lined up for the breakfast. I realized that we could have gone to the main park at 7am and had plenty of time to look around before the breakfast at 8:30am.  That information was conveniently not explained until you arrive.    But I figured out what needed to happen on Friday morning to maximize the time we had left.

We had a fairly good breakfast Thursday morning and then hit the Dragon Challenge ride. Because I had a backpack, we had to use the lockers which were free for 30 mins. Thankfully there was not a wait time on the ride. G gave me her jacket to put in the locker but after the ride which was terrifying to me and exhilarating to G, we inadvertently left the jacket in the locker. We didn't realize for 4 hours that the jacket was gone.

 We had already left the Hogsmeade/Hogswart section of Universal and gone to Diagon Alley by the time I realized the jacket was gone. We were having lunch at the Leaky Cauldron at the time. Lunch was really good as was the butterbeer which tasted like butterscotch. I drank mine hot and G had a cold one she actually couldn't finish.  But I was upset about the jacket so I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't lost the jacket.

So after lunch we headed back to Hogsmeade to the lockers after asking many people about lost and found and maybe left on the train etc. to look for her jacket. I was praying the whole time that we would find it. We get to the lockers and low and behold, God put that jacket on the top of the lockers through some kind person who found it left in the locker we used. I could not believe it and am very VERY thankful for it being found.

As far as the snacks and backpack I carried on Thursday, we drank the water near the end of the day and ate none of the snacks, so Friday I determined not to bring it nor any jackets. So much better without. We didn't need it. We didn't snack and we didn't buy snacks. Other than lunch on Friday, I bought one Starbucks drink.  We were basically too busy exploring to snack. We avoided the lockers without a backpack, thereby avoiding potential loss.

Also as far as purchases, Universal offers this great service to have all packages picked up at the front of the park (from whichever park you are sending) at the end of the day so you don't have to carry anything around except food stuffs, like chocolate frogs.  Of course as the day would go, it was fairly cool Friday so I did end up purchasing hoodies for the both of us and we agreed to wear them all day no matter what.  We didn't really need to take them off as the high reached 64 I think.

I had a small purse I wore under the top layer of my layered shirts to keep our phones for the cameras with us. We were able to ride with them and there by take pictures on the way to the rides. I didn't have them with me on Thursday so no pictures of the inside of Gringotts or the Dragon Challenge.  And there was some very cool stuff to see.

Right now, I feel like I am going in a million different directions.  I am trying to finish unpacking, fixing lunch and loading pictures to Shutterfly.  The fire phones photos and video are pretty good.  If you need a new phone but can't afford the I-phone, the fire phones unlocked are $199 and with contract I think still .99.  I am not getting paid for saying anything but G and I do like our phones.

So back to Universal, Thursday we rode the Escape from Gringotts and had an hour wait which was the longest we waited for any ride.  We did not purchase the express passes because the main rides we were heading for didn't allow them.  Granted in the middle of summer the wait times I am sure are much much longer but if you purchase an early entry I just don't think the express passes are worth it.
The Gringotts ride was very cool.  G and I were in the front of the second car which during the ride became the front seats to the ride.  And I screamed and G screamed.  I think that was my favorite ride.  They really made you feel like part of the wizard battles with the 3d glasses and roller coaster combined.  Funny thing, every ride we got on, G would bring her lap bar or whatever down too tight.  Every time I had to ask the workers to release hers so she could re-do it.  I mean every ride she took.

Friday we got there by 7am and were lucky enough to ride the Despicable Me minion ride which though it is not a roller coaster, it was still pretty fun.  And no line.

After that, we made it to Kings Cross station to head to Hogsmeade before that actual park opened its gates.  We rode the Hogwarts roller coaster and that is the one on which I did feel nauseated.  That pretty much ended my rides for a while.

While we were walking around, we walked into the Simpson's section of Universal studios and G rode the alien ride in Krustyland.  She of course didn't get the Simpson reference as she has never watched the show.
Hogwarts Castle

The Sorting Hat

The Knight Bus 

Hogsmeade Station

No. 12 Grimmauld Place with Kreacher peaking out

9 3/4 platform for Wizards and Witches

The Gringotts Dragon that really blew fire.  We could feel the heat.

Going through the wall at 9 3/4 platform

Anyway, the trip was really good.  We had a great time.  Universal really made the whole experience feel real.  Now we are back into our real world, I am exhausted. We left Orlando at 8:30am Saturday and arrived home at 11:15pm Saturday night.

We found a really good Japanese restaurant in Oxford, AL, because G again decided she was hungry for Italian, Mexican or Chinese (Asian) on the way home.  She did the same on the return from Kentucky last year.  G also fell asleep and had a 2 hour nap on the ride home. I had to wake her up and then put her back to bed.

Now for the real life, off to the store for groceries.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

on the gypsy trip

Made a story at the birthplace of a famous singer today.  Born into poverty rose to worldwide fame.  Any guesses?  Tomorrow off to the final destination.  My house is being watched so thieves be aware.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Busy Weekend

Getting ready for our mini vacay.  I have someone checking on the house so thieves beware.  My low beam light on the driver side of my car is out.  Let's see now, the cam sensor had to be changed to the tune of almost $300, the wheel had to be changed due to a log to the tune of $150 and now the light to be changed and it is not an easy thing to do.  We have to swap cars with my parents so my dad can take it to the shop for me.  Tomorrow I will swap cars with Dad.  f

G has had a busy weekend with a skating birthday party to attend and tomorrow afternoon a matinee with her friend who had the skating birthday party.

Got the flu shot this week so hopefully I can bypass the flu season.  Discovered via the weather channel that where we are going will be mid 60s and rain on the way but not the two days that matter.  I have a place to stay going down there to break up the drive but I am either going to try to drive straight through or find a place on the way coming back.  I am doing laundry like crazy and packing is a nightmare because we don't know what clothes to bring.

I did find a large pepperoni log on clearance (but still good) and I have a box of crackers that I can make snacks for us to take or eat in the hotel.  I have a case of water to bring and am undecided on bringing a back pack or a large purse.  We will only have our phones for photos because honestly I don't want to carry the big camera.  I am stressing about rides and losing things on rides like glasses or bags or money.

Sadly the hotel/resort we are staying in doesn't have a microwave oven in the room so the soup idea doesn't work.  The hotel doesn't have a free breakfast, boo, but does have a water park which we can't use but one maybe two days if at all with the cool weather.  I plan to be at the destination for the 2 whole days well into the evenings that we have passes.  Now the day we check out we may decide to use the water park before leaving or we may decide to get up early and head home.  I am just hoping to get the majority of the driving out the day we leave.

Oh and funny little story, I took my mom with me to the town where the skating rink is and after dropping G off she and I went to lunch.  There was an Italian restaurant where mom had baked ziti and I had a spinach roll.  I brought half the roll home uneaten because I planned on having it for supper.

Then after lunch and a failed attempt to get the light fixed we went to pick G up from the party.  G was starving after all the skating so I offered her the spinach roll thinking she would hate it.  I don't know if it was because she was so hungry or what but she ate the whole thing exclaiming that she likes spinach.  Then we stopped by our house to get some noodles for her and while dropping mom off, I fixed her a bowl of noodles which she also ate.  Skating takes a lot out of a kid.  She didn't have near the bruises she had last year from her friends party.

I think my mom stayed confused about why we were there or where we were going and why G wasn't with us.  But it kept her out of the house for the day.  She has a big day to look forward to as family is coming in but it is also confusing her too.  I am praying it won't be as bad as last year.

Okay, off to do laundry.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

G's Very Cool Social Studies Teacher

who really did shave his head and dressed as an Indian Brave as a conclusion to their study on Native Americans.  Since I am home I took the opportunity to have lunch with G and a friend of hers.

Winter came early

This little bit of white covering on our yard, translated into at least an inch of nice white ice on the overpasses and bridges. I am home today. This prevented me an probably a lot more folks from getting to work, at least those of us who work out of state.  Those who live out of town had trouble getting to our cities and were late to work.  And our interstate system is so backed up it goes to two state lines and half way back to our state capital.

So I had been on the road not even out of the town next to ours trying to get across the bridge but not even close to the bridge or interstate for roughly an hour.  I called my boss who had more info than I did.  She said the bridges were closed.  She said she would see me tomorrow.  YEA! WINTER!

This probably should have been accounted for particularly after our governor was called out last March leaving folks on the interstate system over 24 hours near our town.  Anyway, the perils of living in the south for winter.  I feel sorry for the trucks who had no clue what they were hitting until it was too late.

On the bright side, I can pick G up from school and take her to buy her friend a birthday present for tomorrow's party for which I have not seen the invitation because G can't seem to remember to bring it home from school.  That 10 year old memory beats the cake, doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thank You

To all service men and women and their families, we owe a debt for your sacrifices to keep us free. May we never forget nor let our freedoms be lost.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Geo Cache-ing

If you haven't heard of the phrase, basically it is a treasure hunt of sorts.  I have read on other blogs about how much fun it is, but with one in the back yard of our church and a family who enjoys doing this; I discovered that I hate it.  G on the other hand loved it even though we weren't successful.  Maybe that is why I didn't enjoy it.  Failure or things that have a high probability of failure, I tend to avoid.

The idea is that someone hides something and it literally could be anything even a notebook to sign and then posts the coordinates on a map for people on the internet to find.  So it is a treasure hunt for all intents and purposes.  Very creative but not for me.

So this Sunday after church G has gone geo cache-ing with this family even going out to lunch (though I did offer to fix lunch for them) declaring this day to be a non-boring day.  I am home to fix lunch for myself and start my nap.  I let G know the door would be unlocked but I may be already asleep!

Enjoy your Sabbath Rest!!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Crazy Week

Started out pretty good then Monday night driving home from picking G up from my parents, I ran over a log that bent the rim of a wheel on my car.  There were several logs on the side of the road but until I hit the one I didn't actually know that was what they were.  I thought at first they were dead animals but thought surely there couldn't be that many.  Then too late I saw the one off center in the road ad was unable to avoid it without going into a ditch.  It sounded like a gun shot and both G and I jumped.

Tuesday morning I took it in to the tire place in town, I initially called my dad Monday night to come help me take G to school Tuesday and get me to the car place.  I called my dad because when I panic that is who I call.  I ended up thinking about it over night and arranged another ride for G to get to school Tuesday.  I had enough air to drive myself to the car place which could only bang it out and order a new wheel.

The wheel was going to be in on Wednesday but I was able to drive all week with the temporary fix and drop it off last night so they replaced the wheel this morning.  Thankfully the tire itself was fine.

My dad picked me up and took G, me and mom out to dinner last night.  Then G and I spent the night with my parents so they wouldn't have to make too many trips into town.  The wheel doesn't actually match my car but it is safe to drive now.  Thankfully, the total cost was under $200!!

G and I kept my mom with us to go to the grocery store after picking up the car.  We stopped by our house first and I fixed us lunch.  Next Saturday, G and I have made plans to go help mom make pumpkin cake roll for Thanksgiving.  Last year she tired it by herself and made a pretty big mess of it.  They tasted good but she had rolled the towel into the final roll as opposed to in the middle of the process to train the cake to roll.

Anyway, we have roughly two weeks to our trip.  I am actually pretty excited about it but also extremely stressed over money mainly because of car problems.  I still have something to get fixed but was assured it can wait until after the holidays.

My mom is already talking of skipping Christmas this year and it isn't even her birthday yet.  I told her I was good with skipping it but G said she needed Christmas to come.  The stores also need Christmas to come.  Oh and I was thrilled with the November 4 election results.  I went to bed with soar cheeks from smiling and got up smiling again!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Such an Interesting Weekend

G got to have a friend over again after soccer.  And again they played minecraft for 4 hours.  That isn't the most interesting aspect of the weekend though.

Friday night G went to a trunk or treat function with my dad at our church.  Saturday morning we were able to finish grocery shopping staying within budget.  Then to the soccer game where G scored 3 goals.  They even had big bouncy house and hot dogs after the games.  It was so very cold though most kids didn't stay for the fun.  This also wasn't the most interesting aspect.

Sunday, our Sunday School class had a visitor from Oregon who, for the last 11 years, has ridden a bike and camped out going from place to place.  He left Oregon in January on his way south/east.  He works day labor and I suppose, technically he is homeless, though it seems that he has chosen this.  He works day labor, lives off the kindness of others and came to church Sunday.  One of my class members invited me and G out to lunch with herself and this visitor.  So we heard some of his story.

I will not lie, I was uncomfortable and I am highly suspicious.  We asked about his story which he told and this is where my suspicion comes.  How to trust what he says is truth vs just playing on a church body's emotions.  Somethings we learned: He never finished high school, regrets it now, gave up working 11 years ago, sold everything (or lost it) and began his bike riding across the US.  Every year he has to buy a new bike due to wear and tear.  He has a tent and finds things along the road.  He claims no living relatives, mentioned no children or ex-spouses, claims to have very little work in the winter and sometimes rude greetings in other churches. He is not young, is not a vet, seemed relatively clean though stained with life.  His face is dark where the sun and weather has gotten to him.

He is headed to east TN for winter and that is not something I can understand.  Why go to a cold area and not down to Florida to live on the beach?  Anyway, we prayed over him after lunch as we dropped him back by his bike.  He has a trailer that is packed with clothes, tent, sleeping bag etc.  He did mention that employers are less likely to give him day jobs in the winter than the summer so he said he does tend to be hungrier in the winter.  If anyone has opportunity to give a job in the winter, please realize folks who travel around the country via bike or on feet and want to work will do so in winter, they need to eat in winter too.

After lunch and nap, G had some money burning a hole in her pocket.  We headed to Fred's first then to Wally world where she bought a 3 movie pack of the Wimpy Kid.  Oh and I didn't make it to Thanksgiving before having to turn on my heat which is so not a good thing.  I broke down Sunday and turned it off again this morning.  I don't think the temps are supposed to be low all week.

Saturday, I made two pots of chili, 1 pot of beans only and one of meat and stewed tomatoes only.  G doesn't like meat but does like beans, sour cream and cheese.  And good grief, meat is so expensive so we can't waste any of it and may not be able to ever have it again, heh.  We are gearing up for a fun month.  I will talk more about it after the month is over.