Friday, January 30, 2015

Universal - Islands of Adventure {Day 1}

As usual, January has been crazy busy on the Bay Bush.  We spent a week in Florida and I'm still playing catch up.
We decided to visit Universal Studios this time around since we all love the Harry Potter books and movies.  I debated about how many days of tickets to buy because a lot of the reviews said that the parks were smaller than Disney and wouldn't take as much time.  They were running a promotion when we went for buy 2 days get 1 day free so that was the route we went.  But more on the tickets later.
We got a late start that morning and made it to Universal Islands of Adventure around 11am.  Let me warn you if you haven't been.  There is no tram or monorail to get you from the parking lot to the park at Universal.  You walk.  You walk through the parking deck...then through a tunnel...then through bag check...and flat escalators...and through the City Walk...and then you go left for Islands of Adventure and right for Universal Studios...and then you give them your tickets to get into the park.  Maybe it's because I was almost 6 months pregnant...but it seemed like a lot of walking to me.
We all grabbed a map and got our plan together once we finally made it into the park.

We headed towards Seuss Landing since it looked like it had the most rides for smaller children.  (As you can see, the park was still decorated from Christmas as it was the week after New Years.)

We hit the Cat in the Hat ride first.  It was Avery's favorite.  I'd say its comparable to the Winnie the Pooh ride at the Magic Kingdom.

We made our way through Seuss Landing and rode the carousel since it had no wait at all.

There is a fun little hands-on play area where the girls enjoyed running wild for a few minutes.

The girls loved seeing the Lorax's house.

There happened to be face painters set up by the carousel and the girls conned their Daddy into getting their faces painted in no time flat.  You know what they say about little girls wrapping their Daddy around their finger???  Completely true here.

After we made our way through Seuss Landing we headed toward Hogsmeade (aka Harry Potter World to the girls).
This is the entrance to the Hogwarts Express ride.  It runs from Hogsmeade (in the Islands of Adventure park) to London (in the Universal Studios park) and vice versa.  You can only ride the Hogwarts Express if you have the park hopper ticket option.  This was really the only reason we got park hopper tickets for Universal.  Otherwise, I would have just gotten the base tickets.

Hogsmeade was crazy crowded.  The park on the whole wasn't that bad on the day we went but it seemed like everyone and their brother was in Hogsmeade.  You could hardly move and navigating through the crowd with a double stroller was nearly impossible.

We managed to make our way to the Owlery to mail a couple of postcards back home.  The postmark says Hogsmeade!  They sell stamps there too but I brought my own.
The girls were too small (and I was too pregnant) to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey so we skipped the line and opted for the castle tour instead.  We just walked up to the gate and told the attendant we wanted to do a castle tour and we completely bypassed the line.  I only took a couple of pictures in the castle.

We got to see the talking paintings just like in the movie.

We got to peek into Dumbledore's office.

By this time, it was 80+ degrees and the crowd was too much in Hogsmeade so we decided to head back to the entrance.

We did stop and meet Spiderman on the way out.

We headed back to the house and the girls mustered up just enough energy for a swim before bed.

And that wraps up our first day at Universal!

A few quick tips...
  • You have to have Park-to-Park tickets in order to ride the Hogwarts Express.
  • You have to walk about 20 minutes just to get to the gate at Islands of Adventure.
  • Islands of Adventure has a lot of roller coasters and intense rides.  They have awesome reviews.  I just really didn't get to ride any of them because I was pregnant and my kids were too small for most of the rides outside of Seuss Landing.  I would love to take them back in about 5 years when they are big enough to ride everything.
  • Time your visit to Hogsmeade for either first thing in the morning or later in the evening.
  • Disney gives you 3 Fastpasses for free each day (plus more when those are gone).  Universal has a version of this where you go to the front of the line on almost every ride but you have to pay for it.  When I priced it for our 3 days at Universal it was going to cost an additional $90 per we passed on that.  It really would not have been worth it for us as the rides my kids could ride all had 20 minute or less wait times anyway.  If you were only going to be there for one day and wanted to cram as many rides as possible into the day then I could see where it might be worth it.
  • We ate lunch at Fire Eaters Grill (hot dogs and chicken tenders)...the food was mediocre at best.  I wish we had eaten at a sit down restaurant (like the Three Broomsticks) instead.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas...Plays and Such

I'm posting in reverse a little here but I had to share a few pictures of our Christmas Cantata at church and a few from Christmas morning.

Instead of having a Christmas play this year, we added a few theatrics to the choir's annual cantata.  The holidays are so busy already it is difficult to find a time to rehearse that fits everyones schedule.  Even with our few sparse rehearsals, we didn't have a single one with everyone present.  So it was good that most of the parts were "low maintenance."

I even had to finagle my uncle into a Wise Man role when we had a last minute illness to contend with.  He's such a good sport.

McKenna's class did a little creative moment number to one of the songs.

And then we had about the cutest Nativity scene ever.  See my little angel on the left?

And my sweet girl was in the "modern family" scene during the finale.

And the show certainly wouldn't have gone on without these two.  They had what I consider to be the worst job in the whole production...corralling and directing the children in between numbers.

It turned out great in the end.  I always think about having myself committed when we're trying to get these little productions going but they always turn out fine in the end.

And once we got the play out of the way, there was nothing standing between us and Christmas!  Santa could have skipped our house all together (thankfully he didn't!)  These girls entertained themselves for 3 hours with this cardboard box on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Eve we ate dinner with Chad's family and Aunt Misty helped the girls spread a little magic reindeer food before bed.
And we headed to Granna's on Christmas morning for breakfast where we ran into some of our favorite people!

And with some more of our favorites on Christmas night...

And how stinking cute is this little guy?
And here's our annual family picture in front of Mom's tree.  (Notice my strategically placed child hiding the baby bump)

And that, my friends, was our very wonderful Christmas!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Twas the Day After Christmas...

T'was the day after Christmas,
and all through the house,
were toys, games and boxes
and bits of wrapping paper all about.

McKenna is nestled
all snug in my bed,
nursing a terrible cough
that we'll all probably get.

Avery is in her room,
watching a new DVD,
playing with 20 toys at once
and planning her next party.

The rain has stopped
and Chad went back to work.
Three days at home with us
and he about went berserk.

I'm itching to go shopping
for those after-Christmas deals,
And maybe some cough syrup
to make sure Sister heals.

We had a very Merry Christmas
of that I am sure.
But I'm glad I have another year
to prepare for even more.

I cooked my first turkey
and it turned out just fine.
But when I cleaned it before cooking,
I thought I might die.

(AHEM...There is gross STUFF in there, y'all!)

And that was our Christmas,
wrapped in a nutshell,
Wishing you peace, joy and happiness,
and a little magic as well!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Disney on Ice

We had the most fun last weekend at Disney's Frozen on Ice!  (Pardon all of my camera phone shots...I forgot to take my big camera and I'm not even sure that it would have been allowed in.)
Avery was in awe throughout the entire show...when she wasn't jumping up and down or singing at the top of her lungs.  I could have sat there and just watched her the entire time and been perfectly content. 
Even my little nephew, Tyler, thought the show was fun!  And he's about the only thing cuter than the real Olaf. 
I liked that they included all the Disney characters at the beginning and end too. 
 McKenna was thrilled that she got to sit next to her best little bestie on the row behind us.

If the show comes to a town near you, I would definitely recommend it!  Avery wanted to know if we could go back again the next day. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Cheer {2014}

Friends, the halls are as decked as they're going to get this year.

I made a few changes and added a few new decorations that I picked up after Christmas last year but most of the decorations are SALY (same as last year, for non-auditor folks). #auditorjokes
I decided to dress up my topiaries on a whim and I love them.  All it took was a quick bow and glitter ribbon!
These little presents light up.  I was pretty excited when I found them in the attic all brand new and in the box.  I think I got them the day after Christmas last year at Sam's Club but they look pretty cute on the front porch.

I recycled the Snow Flakes from Avery's Frozen Birthday party and have put them to use in the dining room.  They came from the DOLLAR TREE y'all.  And they look so cute.  

And in the living room, we added a framed Santa puzzle that Mom and McKenna put together.  Once the puzzle was finished, Mom modge-podged and framed it.

I changed out the ribbon on the tree this year for this adorable polka dot ribbon (again, from Sam's Club.  It's the best place to get a lot of cute ribbon at a reasonable price).  I love the polka dots...but y'all already know I have a polka dot problem.

And more recycled Snow Flakes in the kitchen... 
Our little elf brought the girls a little gingerbread advent calendar when she reappeared after Thanksgiving.

The girls race to the Gingerbread house every morning to find out what sort of note Alexis, the elf, has left for them.  Sometimes its just a fun little note and other times she gives them "Elf Homework."  The Elf Homework usually involves some sort of act of kindness or helping someone.
 We never know where she's going to pop up!
And with that...I've got wrapping to do!  Merry Christmas!
p.s. I'm linking up to Evolution of Style, Home Stories A to Z, and Serenity Now.
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